1. PCOS

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Do You Have PCOS? 7 Signs of PCOS to Watch Out For

PCOS can have profound effects on your fertility and menstrual health. Unsure if your symptoms indicate PCOS? Read on to find out the common effects of this condition.

What is PCOS?

It’s normal for ovaries to develop small cysts from time to time. Usually, the cyst is caused by an egg that hasn't fully matured and becomes partially trapped on the ovary. These cysts typically occur during ovulation; they're relatively harmless and can be treated at home. Occasionally, a larger one will rupture, which can cause a sharp pain in the side. Many times, you won’t notice a single cyst on your ovary, and — unless it’s large — the cyst will often go unnoticed.

How do I know if I have PCOS?

It’s estimated that 1 in 10 women in the US suffers from PCOS. If you’re experiencing one or more of the symptoms below, but especially several, and you’re having a hard time getting pregnant, you should consult your gynecologist to determine if you have PCOS.

Irregular and heavy periods

Because a hormonal imbalance prevents the egg from developing in the ovary, you may experience heavier-than-usual periods or irregular periods. You may also skip a period. PCOS affects the hormone balance in your body, specifically the amounts of testosterone and estrogen. This hormonal imbalance inhibits the release of an egg at ovulation. Each month, your ovaries produce an egg through a follicle, which is then released for fertilization.

The higher levels of luteinizing hormone that accompany PCOS keep the egg from being released.

Acne and excessive sebum production

The excessive amounts of testosterone caused by PCOS can have an effect on your skin, too. Even the slightest increase in testosterone can cause acne and blemishes for women — even after you’re out of your teenage years. PCOS also reduces the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body, and this makes the effects of excess testosterone more pronounced.

You can treat acne by following a good skincare regimen, washing your face with a gentle cleanser twice a day, and using non-comedogenic make-up products.

Excessive hair in male-typical areas

PCOS may cause the growth of excess hair, typically thicker and darker than the usual “peach fuzz” that you notice on your face, arms, and chest. This excess hair growth, called hirsutism, is caused by excess testosterone in the body. 

If testosterone levels rise, you’ll notice that hair on your chest, back, and face increases. This excess hair growth, called hirsutism.

For women who are overweight, the overabundance of hormones produced by extra adipose (fat) tissue can also increase the imbalance between testosterone and estrogen. If testosterone levels rise, you’ll notice that hair on your chest, back, and face increases.

Professional hair removal, such as waxing or laser treatment, is one solution. Regulating your hormones with prescribed hormonal therapy may also help.

Difficulty losing weight

PCOS tends to affect women who are obese more than any other group. The excess hormones secreted by fatty tissue may have an effect on your ability to lose weight by increasing your appetite, reducing your desire to exercise, and lowering your body’s ability to burn calories efficiently. All of this can make it more difficult to lose weight, but it’s certainly not impossible.

PCOS tends to affect women who are obese more than any other group. However, losing just 5% of your body weight can result in a marked improvement in your PCOS symptoms.

In fact, losing just 5% of your body weight can result in a marked improvement in your PCOS symptoms, and some women find that when they reach a healthy BMI (between 18-24.9) their PCOS symptoms disappear entirely.

Trouble conceiving

Irregular periods can make it difficult to schedule sex for conception. PCOS can interfere with ovulation, preventing a viable egg from maturing or causing eggs to be released at other points in your cycle. PCOS can also prevent ovulation — and if you don’t ovulate, you can’t get pregnant. However, people with PCOS become pregnant; they have just as much chance of a healthy pregnancy and live birth as women who don’t have the condition.

Treating infertility caused by PCOS means managing the condition itself. For women who are overweight or obese, losing weight is the first step. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to help you ovulate such as clomiphene. You can also use an over-the-counter ovulation test kit or track your body temperature and other signs of ovulation on your own.

Thinning hair and hair loss

While the excess testosterone caused by PCOS can promote unwanted hair growth, this hormonal imbalance can also cause thinning hair or hair loss on your scalp.

Female pattern hair loss is a common side effect of an overabundance of androgen (male) hormones. As long as this hormonal imbalance continues, the hair lost due to androgenic alopecia might not grow back. However, once you’ve reduced the expression of PCOS symptoms, you may be able to begin treatment to regrow your hair, which may include hormone regulation (such as birth control pills or the vaginal ring) and prescription medications.

While the excess testosterone caused by PCOS can promote unwanted hair growth, this hormonal imbalance can also cause thinning hair or hair loss on your scalp.

You may also try taking zinc or biotin supplements to reduce hair loss and improve your PCOS symptoms. However, before taking any supplements, discuss your eating habits and the supplements you have in mind with your doctor.

Diabetes

PCOS may increase your chances of developing pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes. The hormonal imbalances PCOS causes can also affect your ability to process insulin correctly. Diabetes is caused by increased insulin resistance and an insufficient amount of insulin produced by the pancreas to handle this resistance.

One of the largest risk factors in developing diabetes is the same as that for developing PCOS: being overweight or obese. These conditions are associated with an endocrine (hormone-producing) system that isn’t working properly. However, both PCOS and Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be reversed by losing weight.

PCOS may increase your chances of developing pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes. The hormonal imbalances PCOS causes can also affect your ability to process insulin correctly.

It’s not just Type 2 diabetes that’s associated with a higher rate of PCOS. Type 1 diabetes, a genetic condition that often presents during childhood, is also linked to a disproportionate incidence of PCOS. While the connection and causality between PCOS and diabetes aren't clear, if you do have PCOS, it’s recommended that you be screened for diabetes.

When to see a doctor

If you notice that you have several of these PCOS symptoms, you may wish to see your gynecologist. They’ll perform an ultrasound on your ovaries to determine the presence of multiple follicles and diagnose the condition. At that point, the two of you can talk about your options for treatment. If you’re actively trying to conceive, your doctor may have recommendations that can help.

If you notice that you have several of these PCOS symptoms, you may wish to see your gynecologist. They’ll perform an ultrasound on your ovaries to determine the presence of multiple follicles and diagnose the condition.

PCOS may have sudden, severe effects. If you experience a sharp, stabbing pain in the lower right or lower left side of your abdomen, it may indicate that a cyst has ruptured, in which case you need immediate medical attention.

While PCOS may have an impact on your reproductive health, it can be reversed with care and treatment and isn't usually a life-threatening condition. Your doctor can recommend the best treatment to reduce the presence of the condition and mitigate its effects on your ability to have children. 

https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/ovarian-cysts
https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html
https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/polycystic-ovary-syndrome
https://www.healthline.com/health/pcos-hair-loss-2#Support
https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/are-pcos-and-diabetes-connected#research-on-pcos-anddiabetes

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