Conditions and symptoms

Experiencing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Symptoms? Here's What to Look For

Feeling tired and stressed? Blame it on work. Gaining weight? Eating from all that stress! Moodiness and hair growth? Must be a hormonal thing. It’s probably no big deal.

If you’re experiencing symptoms like these, you may have a wide range of excuses for feeling a little off, fatigued or cranky. What you may not realize is that all your symptoms could be tied to a single cause: polycystic ovary syndrome.

The syndrome, commonly called PCOS, is not uncommon. But because the symptoms may seem unrelated, women may spend many years trying to manage individual PCOS symptoms without knowing they are all linked by PCOS.

What is PCOS?

PCOS, or Stein-Leventhal syndrome, is a common hormonal endocrine disorder that affects up to 20 percent of women in their reproductive years. The disorder causes small fluid-filled sacs to develop on the ovaries. The cysts can grow, cause scarring on the ovaries and even burst, causing severe pain.

While the definitive cause of PCOS has not been found, there are ways to minimize risk and alleviate symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the risk of complications, which can include infertility.

What Are the Most Common PCOS Symptoms?

Women with PCOS often experience irregular or heavy menstrual cycles, increased androgen levels, excess hair growth, acne and obesity. In teenagers, PCOS symptoms may be mistakenly attributed to the hormonal changes of puberty, but can, in fact, indicate a more serious issue.

Other PCOS symptoms include:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Skin tags
  • Infertility
  • High cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Dark patches of skin
  • Male pattern balding
  • Insulin resistance
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Pelvic pain
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Decreased libido

What Are the Long-Term Risks of PCOS?

PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in women. It is responsible for 70 percent of ovulatory fertility issues. Multiple cysts and scarring can prevent ovulation. Women who do conceive while dealing with PCOS have a greater chance of complications such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, premature delivery and miscarriage. Type 2 diabetes is also a long-term risk, affecting more than half of PCOS sufferers by age 40.

Health risks associated with PCOS include:

  • Abnormal uterine bleeding
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Depression and anxiety
  • High cholesterol
  • Elevated lipids
  • Sleep apnea
  • Liver disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Increased risk of endometrial cancer,
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Gestational Hypertension
  • Heart attacks

Who Is At Risk For PCOS?

Having a mother or sister with PCOS puts women at higher risk for developing the disorder. This genetic, family link is considered a leading risk factor.

A person with insulin resistance produces additional insulin to meet the body's glucose needs. Excess insulin is thought to affect a woman's ability to ovulate because of its effect on androgen production.

Research also has shown that women with PCOS suffer from low-grade inflammation that stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens.

How Is PCOS Diagnosed?

While no single test can diagnose PCOS, your doctor will take a full medical history, perform a pelvic exam, examine the uterus and ovaries with ultrasound, test hormone levels in the blood and ask you to track your symptoms to look for recurring patterns.

What Is the Treatment for PCOS?

There are things a woman can do to manage her PCOS symptoms and decrease the risk of associated health problems. Weight loss, regular exercise and a healthy diet can go a long way toward easing PCOS symptoms. Maintaining a healthy weight can also reduce blood pressure and androgen levels and reduce the long-term risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Medical treatments can include regulating hormones with bioidentical hormone therapy or birth control pills. Women can also manage related issues, such as type 2 diabetes and excessive hair growth, with treatment plans specific to their problems.

If a woman is facing infertility caused by PCOS, bioidentical hormone therapy or fertility medications and procedures such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) can improve the chances of a healthy pregnancy.

If cysts become large and cause discomfort surgeons can draw the fluid out of the cysts to ease pain and reduce the chances of complications. And, in severe cases, there are surgical options available, such as ovarian drilling, oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) or hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and ovaries).

If you are experiencing any signs of PCOS, contact Coyle Institute to set up an appointment and evaluation. The earlier we can determine the cause of your symptoms the sooner you can be on the path back to your happy, energetic life!