Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), also commonly referred to as PCOD, is one of the most common endocrine disorders today, affecting women of childbearing age.
Numerous studies have greatly changed the views about this disorder, such as
- It is not only restricted to obese women; normal weight and underweight women can also have PCOS.
- It is a collection of symptoms that define PCOS.
- Different women may experience different symptoms, though the main symptoms of PCOS are irregular menstrual cycles and elevated levels of male hormones.
Below is a list of various ways that PCOS may manifest in a woman:
#1 Irregular menstrual cycle
This is perhaps the most obvious sign of PCOS, which can cause variations of few days to complete stoppage of periods. Even longer cycles of 35 days or more signal PCOS. An irregular menstrual cycle is the primary symptom of PCOS; all women with PCOS experience it. Sometimes, menstrual cycle may not be associated with ovulation, and may lead to heavy bleeding, another sign of PCOS.
#2 Trouble conceiving
For women who have been unable to get pregnant for over a year and have irregular cycles, it could point towards PCOS. This is because the hormonal imbalance created in PCOS does not allow regular ovulation, i.e. release of egg every month. The resulting irregularity in periods makes it difficult to conceive.
Increased levels of male hormone in PCOS can cause acne on face, back and chest. Another sign is oily skin or hair.
#4 Excess hair
Again, male hormones in the body can cause male hair pattern like more hair on face and chin, thinning of hair on head and hair on chest.
#5 Weight gain over stomach area
Insulin resistance is a common manifestation of PCOS. It causes elevated levels of sugar in blood as the body’s cells fail to recognise insulin that helps transport glucose into cells. Insulin levels run high in PCOS, leading to build up of fat in the waist area.
#6 Sugar craving
A manifestation of insulin resistance, the body gets used to high levels of sugar in blood; even a small drop in level causes it to go in panic mode. It is important to note that different women experience different symptoms of PCOS, except for irregular menstrual cycles – that is present in all PCOS cases.
Other symptoms may be absent, but may not necessarily signify that there is no PCOS. For this reason, no single test can diagnose PCOS. Women experiencing irregular periods along with other symptoms (if any) must consult a doctor.
The following steps are taken to diagnose PCOS:
- Medical history (menstrual cycle, weight changes)
- Physical exam (BMI, waist size, hair growth)
- Pelvic exam (any enlarged ovaries)
- Vaginal ultrasound (for examining ovaries for cysts and check uterine lining, which becomes thicker in irregular periods)
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