Around 10 million people live with PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. While the exact cause is unknown, genetics and environmental factors are believed to be involved in the condition.
PCOS affects the body’s androgens, insulin, and progesterone. Androgens are sometimes referred to as “male hormones,” but everyone has these hormones to some degree. Women who have PCOS have higher than normal androgens than other women. Excessive androgen levels are responsible for some PCOS symptoms including excessive hair growth, acne, thinning hair, and irregular periods.
Insulin is responsible for regulating the body’s blood sugar. PCOS patients don’t respond to insulin-like they should. The result is increased blood sugar levels and increased insulin levels. Progesterone levels are also lower in people with PCOS, making period regulation difficult.
PCOS Symptoms To Look Out For
It’s common for PCOS to go undiagnosed for quite some time since its symptoms are easily attributed to other conditions. Generally speaking, people with PCOS experience:
Irregular or missed periods: With PCOS, your body doesn’t ovulate regularly, so irregular or missed periods are quite common.
Weight gain: Many people with PCOS experience weight gain and have trouble losing weight without help from their medical provider.
Extreme fatigue: Low energy and prolonged fatigue are common in people with PCOS.
Excessive hair growth: Also called hirsutism, excessive hair growth is a tell-tale symptom of PCOS. Hair may grow thicker in characteristically male places of the body: the face, chest, arms, back, and abdomen.
Thinning hair on the head: People with PCOS often experience a thinning hairline too.
Infertility: According to the PCOS Awareness Association, “PCOS is the leading cause of female infertility.”
Acne: Hormonal changes can cause acne and other skin problems to increase.
Mood changes: Because PCOS affects the hormones, people with the condition experience more mood swings, depression, and anxiety.
Pelvic Pain: Heavy periods and heavier cramps are both associated with PCOS.
Headaches: Hormonal fluctuations can also cause headaches.
Sleep problems: Whether from increased anxiety or hormonal issues, PCOS can cause sleep problems.
It’s also linked to sleep apnea, which is when a person stops breathing for short times while asleep.
Dr. Bartos recently wrote a blog on PCOS after watching an episode of “Chasing the Cure.” Read it here (you’ll love it!) and be sure to call and make an appointment with us if you think you may have PCOS.