What Are The Symptoms Of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)


Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) has made a significant  impact on our minds as every 10th woman seems to be affected by this disease and it’s even more heart breaking when someone very dear to you has been diagnosed by it and hence cannot have a baby as PCOS has rendered her infertile.

Never before PCOS had a significant effect on us as it has now and still so much of less attention has been paid to symptoms of PCOS. Symptoms when understood and treated early can reduce the damage by more than 50% in most of the cases.  A lot of young girls are falling prey to this condition and it’s difficult for the parents to think about PCOS (many of them don’t even know what’s PCOS) and they are happy to brush the symptoms aside thinking that’s normal for a growing girl to experience something like this.

PCOS can go undetected for years and many a time a women comes to know that she is suffering from PCOS when she cannot get pregnant. Our body communicates with us in the form of symptoms and it’s only wise to understand those symptoms and act on them to curb the disease.

What is PCOS?

A woman’s health is very critically dependent on how the hormones are functioning. Even small changes in the hormonal levels can attract problems for a perfectly healthy woman. In PCOS such hormonal changes bring about the development of small cysts in the ovaries. Well women can have cysts in the ovaries for a number of reasons, but when it comes to PCOS it is a clutter of some symptoms which bring about the characteristics of PCOS in a woman.

PCOS affects 5% to 10% of woman and girls as young as 11 can also get affected by PCOS. So it only wise to understand the symptoms of PCOS which will help administering medical help early on to tackle the disease effectively.

What Are The Symptoms Of PCOS?

There can be a various signs or symptoms for PCOS of which some occur early and some which occur gradually as the disease progresses.

Symptoms that occur early include

  • Menstrual periods problems – There can be a few or complete absence of menstrual periods
  • Pelvic pain
  • Acne or oily skin, caused due to high androgen levels
  • Extra hair growth (hirsutism) on the face, back, chest, stomach and fingers
  • Depression or mood swings
  • Dark skin patches on the back of your neck and other areas
  • Irregular heavy vaginal bleeding

Symptoms that may occur gradually

  • Weight gain – This happens gradually but is unusual and you add weight centrally, mostly around the hips
  • Hair loss – You may lose hair early but it takes time for you to notice the significant hair loss or thinning of the hair which is almost like male pattern baldness ( I know you are really scared now but stay calm). This happens due to the high androgen levels in your body
  • Infertility – As you may not be ovulating (ovaries releasing an egg) you may not get pregnant
  • Miscarriages –  Some women who may ovulate and get pregnant during PCOS may suffer from miscarriages due to high insulin levels in the body
  • Insulin resistance – In this condition the body cells do not completely respond to the action of insulin, which causes the sugar levels in the blood rise abnormally. Over time, this may put the woman on high risk of type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes

Your body might experience any of these symptoms at some point of time, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are suffering from PCOS. Doctors have to analyse different aspects or the manner in which these symptoms appear to diagnose PCOS in woman.

Many doctors rely on a criteria known as Rotterdam criteria of which the guidelines have been set by The European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) and The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) for diagnosis and management of PCOS.

As per the Rotterdam criteria, to be diagnosed with PCOS a woman must have two of the following three manifestations

  1. Irregular or absent ovulation
  2. Elevated levels of androgenic hormones
  3. Enlarged ovaries containing at least 12 follicles each

There may be other conditions with similar signs like androgen secreting tumors or Cushing’s syndrome  that must be ruled out before diagnosing PCOS. This criteria by no means can be considered as the final definition of diagnosing PCOS, says Dr.Robert Rebar,  MD and executive director of ASRM.

If you or anyone whom you know are going through these symptoms which more often occur simultaneously, you must not waste any time and visit a gynecologist for getting a clear perspective on whether that woman is having PCOS or not. Moreover, these symptoms when occur in teenage girls, should not be taken lightly and one should seek medical assistance at the earliest.

PCOS affects the quality of life of a woman, sexual satisfaction and sense of well-being gets affected. It only wise to understand what are the symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and act accordingly on them.

Photo Credits: SalFalco

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