As many as five million women in the United States live with the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) during their childbearing years.
If you need help managing PCOS symptoms, you can rely on the expertise of Sowmya Reddy, MD, and our team at Alpha OB GYN. Dr. Reddy specializes in diagnosing and treating PCOS using a personalized treatment plan she creates just for you.
As September is PCOS Awareness Month, it’s a great time for us to shed some light on this condition, so you can recognize the warning signs early. Often, with early treatment, you can manage your symptoms more efficiently and reduce your risk for more serious complications.
PCOS is a condition that develops due to an imbalance in your hormones, specifically androgens. Androgens are male hormones that are naturally present in small amounts in women. These hormones are responsible for male traits like facial hair growth and male-pattern baldness.
You may also be at higher risk for PCOS if you have high levels of insulin, a hormone that helps convert the foods you eat into the energy you need to function. When your body doesn’t respond to insulin as it should, it can lead to insulin resistance.
This, in turn, can contribute to PCOS, especially in women who are overweight or obese and those with a personal or family history of diabetes.
Adolescent girls and adult women who are in their childbearing years (typically between age 15 and 44) are vulnerable to PCOS, regardless of their ethnicity. If close relatives have PCOS, you may be more likely to develop it too.
The symptoms of PCOS can be similar to other medical conditions. For this reason, it’s always best to schedule a diagnostic evaluation if you experience:
PCOS can cause fewer periods and missed periods due to the imbalance in hormones. You might also experience periods that come every 21 days or more frequently.
In some women, PCOS can stop periods altogether.
While acne is a common side effect of puberty, severe or chronic acne during your childbearing years may be the result of PCOS.
Women may notice increased acne breakouts on their face, upper back, and chest.
Some women with PCOS may develop thinning hair or a receding hairline (male-pattern baldness).
The condition can also cause excessive hair growth on the areas of the body more common in men, such as on the face, chin, and chest.
A hormone imbalance can cause unexplained weight gain, especially around the midsection of the body. This weight can be more difficult to lose, even with a good diet and regular exercise.
Skin darkening is a possible side effect of PCOS. Women may notice their skin is darkening in the creases of the body, especially in the groin, under the breasts, and in the neck.
Hormone imbalances relating to PCOS can also affect the skin in another way. Adolescent girls and adults can develop skin tags on any area of the body. Skin tags are excess flaps of skin that are common under the armpits and on the neck.
While harmless, skin tags can affect how you feel about your appearance and may also become painful if you get them caught on your clothing.
In addition to these disruptive symptoms, PCOS can also increase your risk for infertility. An imbalance in your reproductive hormones can affect the function of your ovaries and they may not be able to release your eggs for fertilization.
In some cases, women with PCOS will develop noncancerous cysts in the ovaries that also interfere with your ability to conceive a viable pregnancy.
Luckily, complications of PCOS can be prevented by making lifestyle and dietary changes. You may also benefit from low-dose birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy to rebalance your hormone levels and restore your regular menstrual cycle.
If you have symptoms of PCOS, find out more about your options for treatment by calling the Alpha OB GYN office nearest you or by booking a consultation online today.