The first thing you may notice is that your menstrual cycle is off its normal schedule, or you may experience a sudden bout of the acne that hasn’t plagued you for years. You might be inclined to dismiss these situations as random occurrences; however, when combined with other signs, they may be indications that you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). You need to see a doctor to get a proper diagnosis.

According to the Office on Women’s Health, 10% of American women of childbearing age live with PCOS, a hormonal imbalance that inhibits ovulation and can impact your overall health, fertility, and appearance.

Hormones and your health

Hormones play a major role in regulating your bodily functions, including your metabolism, mood, reproductive system, and more. While estrogen is the primary “female” hormone, ovaries normally do produce some androgen (a “male” hormone), and PCOS can develop when your ovaries are stimulated to produce too much.

The higher levels of androgen not only disrupt the menstrual cycle, they can also cause male-like characteristics to appear.

Common PCOS symptoms include:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Excess facial or body hair
  • Severe acne
  • Thinning scalp hair or male-pattern baldness
  • Skin tags
  • Substantial weight gain or trouble losing weight

PCOS symptoms can vary, but they tend to appear around your first menstrual period during puberty or after a substantial weight gain.

Diagnosing PCOS

PCOS is diagnosed by clinical history, a thorough exam, lab tests, and occasionally an ultrasound to check for cyst-like structures on the ovaries – hence the name “polycystic ovary.” According to the Mayo Clinic, a diagnosis of PCOS is made when you have at least two of the following:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles
    Infrequent, irregular, or prolonged periods are the most common signs of PCOS
  • Elevated levels of androgen
    Higher levels of the male hormone can cause physical changes to your body
  • Polycystic ovaries
    Enlarged ovaries due to multiple “cysts” surrounding the eggs

If you ever experience chronic irregularity with your menstrual cycle, it’s important to see a doctor.

Living with PCOS

The exact causes of PCOS are unknown, but a mix of genetic and lifestyle factors (like a poor diet and inactivity) are thought to contribute to its development.

PCOS isn’t life-threatening, but it can greatly impact your future and family planning. While infertility is common with the condition, you can improve your chances of becoming pregnant with:

  • A good diet and regular physical activity
  • Prescribed medication, such as clomiphene if indicated
  • In vitro fertilization when requested
  • Occasionally surgery may be indicated

There are other suggestions we may have to reduce the symptoms of PCOS such as acne management, assistance with weight loss and management of hair growth and hair loss and options for cycle regularity if not attempting pregnancy.    We will review these options at an appointment when reviewing the comprehensive management for PCOS

See an OB/GYN

Regularly seeing an experienced gynecologist is important, whether or not you have PCOS symptoms. Dr. Donna J. Hagberg’s office in Cos Cob can offer the OB/GYN services you need to stay healthy. With more than 25 years of service, Dr. Hagberg is experienced in diagnosing and treating gynecological issues.

Call us at 860-356-2042 or request an appointment online today to learn more about PCOS and how it affects you.