Polycystic Ovary Syndrome | Common Signs and Symptoms
Polycystic ovary syndrome is one of the most common endocrinal disorders prevailing among women of reproductive age. It affects a wide range of women worldwide, with 1 in 10 suffering from it. It is most commonly diagnosed in women aged 14 to 45 (reproductive years). The stats demonstrate the importance of this health condition and the need for its knowledge and awareness.
Women's reproductive system is comparatively more complex, and so are the diseases related to it. The same is the case where a cluster of endocrinal abnormalities collectively presents as a multi-factorial disease; PCOS. However, the symptoms of PCOS are somewhat obvious, thus making the diagnosis convenient if attended to carefully. This article aims to discuss those signs and symptoms in detail.
Signs and Symptoms of PCOS
One of the most common symptoms is missed period or a monthly cycle longer than 35 days. The period goes missing for many months depending upon the severity of the condition. You might also experience scanty or very heavy blood flow accompanied by pain and cramps. The cycle might also be much shorter than the typical 28 days. However, this is less commonly encountered as compared to missed and scanty periods.
Excessive growth of unwanted hair on the body or male pattern hair distribution on the female body is called hirsutism. PCOS is the leading cause of this issue in women. Those hair are most commonly seen on the chin, chest, below the belly button and back. Hair in the hair of the underarm and private area also becomes more coarse and thick.
Moreover, male pattern baldness( hair loss on the head) is also commonly encountered. The hair on the head becomes thin and brittle, and the hair fall increases, which is not balanced by new hair growth. At the same time, body hair continues to increase. This is one of the most physically and emotionally debilitating PCOS symptoms.
The spike in the male hormone; testosterone is the leading cause of these symptoms in women.
Acne, Blackheads and Excessively Oily Skin
The sebum production in the skin increases due to testosterone, causing severe acne and blackheads. Moreover, the skin becomes excessively oily and dull, leading to clogged pores, the culprits behind pimples and blackheads. Cystic acne, which contains cyst-like painful bumps(especially in the jawline and chin area), is a common characteristic of polycystic ovary syndrome. The face, back and chest are affected mainly by it.
Difficulty Conceiving; A Negative Pregnancy Test
Are you tired of that single line on the pregnancy test strip? If yes, PCOS might be the reason behind it. It is essential to rule out PCOS if you are experiencing infertility issues. It becomes comparatively difficult for women with PCOS to conceive compared to those who don't suffer from it. A recurrent negative pregnancy test might be emotionally breaking, but there is always a silver lining in the cloud.
Although PCOS is a culprit for an unwanted negative pregnancy test, it doesn't mean you can never get pregnant. Consult your health professional, preferably a gynaecologist, to start appropriate medication and lifestyle modifications that will help to get pregnant and support the pregnancy once you conceive.
Unintentional Weight Gain
PCOS and weight gain circulate in a continuous cycle where PCOS causes obesity; at the same time, obesity further aggravates and increases metabolic risk factors for PCOS. The lower belly fat is the most stubborn one in women with PCOS. Therefore, shedding some of it helps with PCOS symptoms well. Women with PCOS have a slow metabolism; therefore, losing weight becomes a huge struggle. However, only obese women can get PCOS is just a myth. Thin and lean women can also have it, but it is very less common since almost 80% of the women with PCOS are obese.
Dark patches appear in the underarms, groin, under the breasts and neck folds; a condition called "acanthosis nigricans" is seen in 56% of the PCOS patients. Insulin resistance ( inability of the body to utilize insulin) is the cause of this skin discolouration. Skin tags; benign( non-harmful ) pieces of excess skin, particularly in the armpit areas, are also seen in PCOS patients.
Although less common, the hormonal changes associated with PCOS can also trigger headaches. Especially in women with migraine history, PCOS can trigger headaches and even increase their severity.
The Takeaway Message
In case you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, report to your doctor to get yourself checked. Although PCOS is becoming an increasingly common disease, there are ways it can be managed if not treated. Staying persistent with yoga, exercise, and other lifestyle modification, including dietary changes, can help deal with the PCOS symptoms.