Properly identifying a health issues allows for a better response and more effective treatment. Unfortunately, many people have difficulty identifying an exceptionally common condition known as polycystic fibrosis or PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome).
PCOS affects between 8 and 20 percent of women with approximately half of this group being unaware of their condition. To effectively recognize PCOS it is important to have a basic understanding of the disorder as well as the many symptomatic clues that can point to the condition.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is an endocrine disorder that develops in a large percentage of the female population, specifically during childbearing years. The condition is caused by disruption of hormones including androgens, progesterone, and estrogen. Imbalance of these substances cause clusters of cysts to form in the ovaries. These small fluid-filled cysts contain immature eggs and promote the production of androgens such as testosterone. The hormonal disruption caused by these cysts negatively effects many bodily functions such as weight regulation, menstruation, and ovulation. Other more obvious symptoms such as acne, unwanted hair growth, and balding of the scalp may also develop.
In addition to these common signs of PCOS, there are others that may be indicative of the condition as well. The following symptoms are common among those suffering from PCOS and may be useful for identifying of the condition.
Unpredictable or missing menstrual cycles is a primary indicator of PCOS. Cysts produced by PCOS can inhibit production of progesterone, which is a female hormone necessary for menstruation. If the ovaries are unable to produce enough progesterone to regulate hormone activity and balance estrogen levels, menstrual cycles may be delayed or missed entirely. Ovarian cysts also increase production of testosterone, which can exacerbate hormonal imbalances. Due to the dramatic shift in levels, it is common for those with PCOS to experience heavier flow, irregular periods, or miss their periods entirely.
It may not come as a surprise, but the menstrual difficulties caused by PCOS also contributes to infertility or difficulty conceiving. When the body is incapable of producing the requisite amount of progesterone, underdeveloped eggs in the ovaries can become cysts. This inhibits transport of eggs from the fallopian tubes and makes conception exceptionally difficult. In fact, PCOS has such a significant impact on the ability to conceive that it is the leading cause of infertility among women. Some studies suggest that PCOS is responsible for up to 70 percent of infertility caused by ovulation issues.
Acne in Adulthood
Hormonal fluctuations caused by PCOS can trigger cosmetic and occasionally painful symptoms such as acne. An excess of male androgens, like testosterone, in women promotes skin issues and irritations. Androgens increase the production of sebum, an oily substance, that can mix with dying or dead skin tissue to plug pores. Sebum is also a food source for bacteria that can trigger inflammation, which further promotes acne development and other skin irritations.
Some patients may also suffer from hidradenitis supperativa or acne inversa. This inflammatory condition causes painful bumps or boils to develop under the breast, around the groin, and under the armpits. Although these irritants are likely not going to be seen by others on a regular basis, the discomfort they cause can be frustrating.
Unexpected Hair Growth
Hormone balance plays a role in nearly every bodily function including hair growth. PCOS is associated with excessive hair growth, known as hirsutism, in areas such as the upper lip, chin, fingers, toes, and elsewhere. Hair growth in unexpected areas is highly indicative of PCOS or at the very least some degree of hormone imbalance. Even though hair growth does not cause any physical damage, the hormonal dysfunction it suggests may indicate that more significant issues are likely to develop.
In addition to increasing hair growth in abnormal locations, hormone imbalance triggered by PCOS can cause hair loss in prominent areas such as the scalp. Female hair loss is associated with greater prevalence of testosterone. Ovarian cysts promote testosterone production, which can contribute significantly to increased testosterone levels and subsequent symptoms. Hair loss is not seen in every case of PCOS but if present can by a significant indicator of the condition.
Changes in Skin Color and Texture
PCOS promotes the production of insulin, often resulting in insulin resistance. As insulin levels continue to rise, patients may begin to notice the development of dark patches on the skin. This is known as acanthosis nigricans. Common areas of discoloration are near the nape of the neck, underarm, interior thigh, and under the breast. In addition to discoloration, the skin in these regions may become thicker and develop a rougher texture. This may also suggest that a patient is pre-diabetic or diabetic.
Weight Gain or Difficulty Losing Weight
On its own, weight gain and greater weight retention is not a reliable sign of PCOS. However, in the presence of other symptoms it can suggest hormonal imbalance. Typically, excess weight caused by PCOS rests in the upper body and abdomen. It is not entirely clear as to why weight is connected to PCOS, but it is likely that its association to insulin resistance and the resulting increase in weight retention is a major component.
Identify the Cause to Resolve the Symptoms
PCOS causes a variety of symptoms that often seem detached from one another. Because of this, many individuals focus on treating individual symptoms rather than identifying and resolving the underlying issue. If you are experiencing some or all of the symptoms discussed above, it is possible that you are suffering from PCOS. Without resolving the underlying issue of hormonal imbalance, it is likely that these symptoms will remain. Fortunately, treatment is available. If you believe that you may have PCOS, speak with a trusted physician about creating an individualized treatment plan to resolve PCOS and its associated symptoms.
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4. 7 Subtle Signs You Could Have PCOS. Self. https://www.self.com/story/pcos-polycystic-ovary-syndrome-signs