PCOS – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – is a syndrome that affects the levels of insulin, female hormones, and male hormones in a woman’s body.
In addition to the traditional PCOS symptoms, women with PCOS are also more likely to suffer from auto-immune or inflammation related diseases such as arthritis, IBS, thyroid disorders, or even asthma.
The good news is that no woman will have every single symptom listed here. In fact, that is exactly what makes PCOS difficult to pinpoint – the symptoms can vary widely from one woman to the next. However, if you have several of the symptoms listed below, chances are fairly high that you could have PCOS, and it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor or naturopath.
* Irregular periods, including bleeding between periods
* Absent periods (Amenorrhea)
* Very light periods (Hypomenorrhea)
* Painful periods (Dysmenorrhea)
* Very heavy periods (Menorrhagia)
* Irregular, or absent, ovulation (Anovulatory cycle)
* Enlarged uterus
* Enlarged ovaries
* Ovarian cysts
* Enlarged clitoris (though rare, it is a sign of PCOS)
* Hormonal imbalances of estrogen, progesterone, androgen, and testosterone
* Particularly high levels of testosterone and androgen
* Mood swings
* Feelings of anger and aggression
* Anxious depression
* Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
* Decreased sex drive
* Decreased breast size (I never personally experienced this because my system had too much estrogen, and not enough progesterone to keep it in check)
* Obesity (particularly around the stomach – also known as the PCOS tummy that can make you appear pregnant even when the rest of your body is slender)
* Difficulty losing weight
* Insulin resistance
* High blood pressure
* High cholesterol
* Excess hair growth on the face, breasts, stomach, thighs, arms, etc. (Hirsutism)
* Acne (often manifests itself as large, cystic pimples on the neck, chin, and jawline)
* Skin tags
* Dark, velvety patches of skin (Acanthosis nigricans)
Pretty big list, isn’t it? Like I said, though, no two women will have the exact same symptoms, and there may even be a few more symptoms that are not traditionally linked to PCOS. If you notice some of these PCOS symptoms jumping off the page at you, make an appointment to talk to your doctor or naturopath.
Don’t be afraid to be vigilant with your health – PCOS is often misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed, and even the best doctors have been known to simply prescribe a birth control pill and send the patient on her way. I know, because that is what happened to me.
I suffered with PCOS for quite a few years before finally seeking a second opinion. After trying dozens of birth control pills and prescriptions, I finally found a doctor who listened to my concerns and symptoms, and gave me a diagnosis of PCOS. I only wish that I had sought that second opinion sooner.
Learn from my mistake, ladies. If you feel that you need a second opinion, by all means, do it. Life is too short to suffer needlessly from PCOS. Today, a few years after finding my great new doctor, I am happier, and healthier, than ever!
1. Personal experience with PCOS for over a decade.
2. Holland, J.R. (2009) Symptoms of PCOS. http://pcoscoach.com/symptoms_of_PCOS.html. October 13, 2010.