Polycystic ovary syndrome: Symptoms
1. Abnormal menstruation
Though abnormal menstruation can be due to several other problems of the reproductive system, this is one of the most characteristic symptoms associated with polycystic ovary syndrome. In such cases, women normally have late periods with a gap of over 35 days and the periods can be very irregular as well with a gap of several months. Menstruation can also be heavy and prolonged or scanty and very short as a result of PCOS. If such symptoms persist, it is important to test for PCOS or any other problem associated with irregular bleeding such as cancers of the reproductive organ or infections that require treatment.
Amenorrhea is a condition in which the woman does not menstruate for several months together. Prolonged amenorrhea can be dangerous as it can lead to the thickening of the endometrial wall and can lead to endometrial cancer. If the amenorrhea persists with a gap of more than 4 months, it is important to get checked for gynaecological disorders like PCOS and regulate your ovulation cycle before it affects your reproductive capacity and lead to infertility that cannot be reversed. However, secondary amenorrhoea can be caused if you are severely underweight as well. Check for associated symptoms before planning a session with your gynaecologist.
3. Insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is a symptom that develops as a result of PCOS. Though insulin resistance can be caused due to other factors as well, when combined with PCOS, this condition can led to increased chances of developing diabetes and other heart related disorders. With insulin resistance, the body’s ability to control the sugar in the blood diminishes and blood glucose levels will shoot up, leading to diabetes later on in life. Insulin resistance developed during PCOS can lead to associated symptoms like weight gain, depression, fatigue, brain fogginess, bloating etc., all of which can only lead to a traumatic experience if left untreated.
One of the most unfortunate effects of PCOS is the development of infertility in younger women. In fact, polycystic ovary syndrome is mostly discovered by women when they fail to become pregnant after repeated attempts. Infertility arises due to irregular ovulation or absence of ovulation due to amenorrhea. The follicles that contain eggs remain without maturing inside a woman’s uterus when she has PCOS. These follicles can lead to cysts and damage the uterine wall, thereby causing infertility and failure to contain a pregnancy. However, some women also get pregnant with PCOS which means that all is not lost with PCOS.
5. Excessive hair growth or hair fall
Excessive hair growth is caused due to the production of excess androgen, a male hormone. Elevated androgen levels can lead to excess hair growth in the face, chest, back etc. which can be embarrassing for women. Sometimes, women are faced with thinning hair and female pattern baldness which is difficult to control until the disease is brought under control. Excessive hair fall can be due to many other hormone problems and hence looking for other symptoms as well are necessary when you suspect polycystic ovary syndrome as the cause for your condition.
Again a symptom that can be confusing, considering that obesity can be caused due to several other factors as well, PCOS and weight gain have a great connection nevertheless. Obesity due to PCOS is due to the hormone imbalance caused as a result of inadequate hormones produced by the ovaries for the eggs to become mature. The weight gain is typically concentrated on the abdominal region when it is due to PCOS. This is because it is caused due to insulin resistance and the action of male hormone androgen, which mostly causes weight gain in the mid region than in any other part of the body.
7. Polycystic acne
PCOS increases one’s chances of developing polycystic acne. This is due to the hormone imbalance in the body and also due to the excess oiliness of the skin which increases your chance of clogging the pores and causing bacterial infections. Polycystic acne is no different from adult acne and hence you must look for accompanying symptoms to confirm the diagnosis when you have severe acne formations that do not subside with over the counter medications and creams, and other prescription drugs meant for acne treatment. Such acne formations require treatment for the PCOS as well for complete relief.
8. Pelvic pain
Though pain is not a regular symptom that is associated with PCOS, some women do experience pain in the lower abdominal region, either on one side or either side depending on the position of the cysts that are formed as a result of amenorrhea or absence of periods for several months. It is these cysts that cause pain and the pain can be rated in a scale of mild to moderate depending on the severity and size of the cysts. The pain can be triggered as a result of rupture of the cysts, causing internal bleeding. This is a serious condition that requires immediate medical intervention.
9. Polycystic ovaries
Polycystic ovaries can be detected through an ultrasound scan of the ovaries. These enlarged ovaries need not always cause PCOS. However, this too is one of the causes that can lead to PCOS or can be a symptom of PCOS in some women. The presence of polycystic ovaries must be analysed along with the presence of other symptoms like amenorrhea or abnormal menstruation and excessive hair growth related to excess androgen in the body. This is due to the reason that some women with PCOS have normal ovaries and others with polycystic ovaries do not have PCOS.