How to Know if you have PCOS? Causes and Symptoms

PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a hormonal disorder that is commonly found in women of reproductive age, i.e. from 15 to 30 years. Women with PCOS produce more male hormones than a normal female. Alarmingly, 1 in every 10 women of this particular age group is affected by PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Due to hormonal imbalances and metabolism problems in PCOS, the patient’s health and appearance get affected. So, how to know if you have PCOS? Let us break it to you.

What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

PCOS is a syndrome that affects women’s fertility or the ability to bear a child. Not only infertility, PCOS also causes an increased amount of acne and body/facial hair. The primary reason for PCOS is the imbalance of reproductive hormones or which prevents ovaries from releasing a healthy egg every month during ovulation. Due to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, women suffer from irregular periods and cystic ovaries. Cysts are fluid-filled sacs grown inside ovaries. Because of these cysts, the egg may not develop properly inside the ovaries.

What are the causes of PCOS?

The exact factor is still unknown, but hypothetically several factors play in women getting Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Genetic factors- Sometimes doctors are unable to find the real reason, however, if your mother or sister have PCOS, you might as well get PCOS. Yes, it might be genetically inherited. Although Polycystic Ovary Syndrome doesn’t depend on a particular gene, it can affect you based on a variety of genes and mechanisms. This is why women from a wide range of age get PCOS. 

Also, the lifestyle factors can take an active part in it.

Hormones and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Hormones play vital roles in performing various mechanisms of our body. Some specific hormones take an active part in womxen’s reproductive process. 

Disbalances between some of these hormones cause Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

  1. Insulin Resistance:

    Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome have an insulin resistance in their body. Insulin resistance means their cells cannot use insulin properly. Our pancreas produces the hormone insulin, which helps our cells to use the sugar from foods to gain energy. But the PCOS patients have a tolerance in using this insulin properly. Which causes the body to crave more insulin. When the pancreas creates more insulin, this in return produces more male hormones, and one of the reasons for PCOS is the presence of excess male hormones in the body. Insulin resistance can also contribute to change in skin conditions, like skin tags, acne, dark patches and stubborn and undesirable weight gain.
  2. Excess Androgen:

    Due to high resistance to insulin, the body increases the production of the male hormone androgen. Excess androgen level prevents ovaries from releasing a healthy egg during ovulation. When you don’t ovulate regularly, it leads to irregular periods, infertility or cysts in ovaries. Also, because of excess androgen level, we see an extra growth of body hair (neck, chest, arms, legs) and facial hair. 

Related Read: Indian diet plan for weight loss in PCOS

What are the symptoms of PCOS and how to know if you have PCOS?

  1. Irregular periods:

    Because of abnormal ovulation, women with PCOS face irregular periods. As the ovaries do not ovulate regularly, it prevents the shedding of uterus lining every month. Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome may have less than eight periods per year or sometimes, they stop menstruating.

  2. Weight gain:

    One of the undesirable symptoms for PCOS is sudden weight gain. Approximately 8 out of every 10 women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome suffer from stubborn and undesirable weight gain. Because of PCOS, the body stores more fat than needed around the belly (abdominal fat). Excess fat around the midsection can lead to diseases like diabetes-2, cardiovascular disease, and even endometrial cancer. Women face difficulty in losing weight as PCOS makes weight management difficult. However, only 5-10 lbs of weight loss can help you deal with your PCOS in a better way.
  3. Excessive hair growth:

    It has been seen that about 70% women who have PCOS suffer from Hirsutism, which is excessive male-pattern hair growth. In areas like face, neck, arms, legs, lower back, abdomen they start to grow unwanted hair. This abnormality is known as Hirsutism. 

  4. Excessive hair falls:

    Another symptom is male-pattern baldness. Especially around the scalp area, there might be noticeable hair thinning if you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

  5. Dark patches on skin:

    Polycystic Ovary Syndrome can cause abnormal changes of skin, which is darker than normal skin tone. Around the back of neck, crotch, or under-breasts a dark, velvety skin would show up. 

  6. Skin tags and adult acne:

    Another abnormal skin condition that is seen in PCOS is the growth of unwanted skin tags and breakouts (adult acne) which do not go away easily with normal dermatologic treatment. 

  7. Depression and Anxiety disorder:

    Disorders like anxiety and depression are very common in women who suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome. Although doctors have not completely agreed on it, they have suspected that the distress these women deal with caused them these mood disorders. The constant distress related to infertility, excessive male-pattern hair growth or unwanted and stubborn weight gain are the major causes for these mood disorders.  

  8. Eating disorder:

    Because of the insulin resistance, there is an unneeded craving for foods, especially sweet cravings.

  9. Headaches:

    Hormonal disbalances in the body can lead to headaches.

  10. Obstructive sleep apnea:

    Obstructive sleep apnea and daytime sleepiness are commonly associated with insulin resistance. Repetitive and brief pauses in breathing during sleep which last for a few seconds are known as sleep apnea, and this is very common in women with PCOS. Although not necessary but sleep apnea can also cause daytime fatigue, memory loss, mood swings, weight gain, and diabetes-2.

  11. Type-2 diabetes:

    The insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovaries is a potential risk factor for type-2 diabetes. It has been seen women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome have a high chance of getting type-2 diabetes before the age of 40. 

Also read: Abnormal Vaginal Discharge — Types and Causes

How can PCOS be cured?

  • However harsh it sounds, but there is no proper cure for PCOS invented. Lifestyle change and medication to some extent can make PCOS manageable. Doctors may offer you various pills to treat the diagnosed symptoms separately, including irregular periods, acne, excess hair, infertility, etc.
  • Also, if you can lose weight up to 5%-10% of your total weight, it can also help you ovulate more regularly and decrease other Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome symptoms. Although not completely cured, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome can be manageable through nutrition and exercise. Weight loss in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome can be difficult, but consistency in this journey can prevent other serious health complications. Because PCOS can be a potent contributor in diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and which can lead to stroke.
  • Since Polycystic Ovary Syndrome can be a potential factor for high blood sugar, limiting your starch or sugar intake can help you deal with your PCOS. Instead, foods rich in fiber would be good to add in your diet.
  • Drink more water and avoid processed foods, alcohol and smoking. 
  • Reduce your stress level as far as you can. This will help manage your depression and anxiety.
  • Do yoga and meditation and enjoy some free time on your own out in the nature. After all, who wouldn’t like to have some fresh air?

Also read: Why Yoga Is Good For Mental Health?