Symptoms of PCOS : Causes, Signs & When to Book a Medical Appointment

Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS is a hormonal disorder in relation with women’s male hormone levels. The amount of androgen is in fact highly produced and that causes an imbalance regarding their levels. What are the causes and symptoms of PCOS? When should you get an appointment with a doctor? These are the questions we are answering in this article. 

Causes of PCOS

One study shows that up to 70% of women with PCOS did not get diagnosed since they weren’t aware of their condition. This has a direct link with the fact that a lot of sources confirm the causes of PCOS are still unknown. Since PCOS comes from androgen excess, it can be related to some factors like the level of the hormone itself, genes, insulin resistance and a high inflammation (low grade chronic inflammation), which have been linked to the excess production of this male hormone.

  • Genes: Studies have demonstrated the relation between heredity and PCOS
  • Insulin resistance: when cells resist the action of insulin, the body demand becomes even higher, causing the pancreas to produce more of it. Excess of insulin can then produce more male hormones and cause ovulation difficulty. Research show insulin resistance can approximately be found in 70% of women with PCOS. Obesity can directly be linked to insulin resistance. Those 2 variables can also increase the risk of having type 2 diabetes.
  • High inflammation: a certain type of low-grade inflammation can lead to higher androgen production

Signs & symptoms

PCOS is common for women of a reproduction age, but signs and symptoms are often developed around the first menstrual period during puberty. It also can be developed later, in reaction to substantial weight gain, or discovered after having trouble getting pregnant.

Here are the most common signs and symptoms of PCOS:

  • Irregular periods: infrequent, irregular or longer than usual menstrual cycles are common for women with PCOS because the lack of ovulation affects the shedding of the uterine lining.
  • Physical signs of excess androgen:
    – Excess hair growth: 70% percent of women with this condition have excess hair growth on their face and body 
    – Severe acne: areas like the face, chest and upper back skin can get oilier than normal and cause breakouts as a result.
    – Male-pattern baldness: hair can get thinner and fall out from the scalp
  • Polycystic ovaries: Enlarged ovaries can contain follicles that surround the eggs. The ovaries then might fail to function regularly.

Symptoms can vary and some women may notice:

  • Heavy bleeding: If women have irregular periods, it can get heavier than usual when they are having them.
  • Weight gain: Up to 80% of women with PCOS are suffering from obesity.
  • Darkening of the skin: Dark patches can sometimes appear on body creases.
  • Headaches: Some women may experience headaches because of hormone changes.

When to see a gynecologist

Women need to see a doctor when:

  • There is an issue regarding their menstrual periods and they are not pregnant ;  
  • They are experiencing PCOS symptoms such as the ones previously described ;
  • There has been an attempt to pregnancy for more than 12 months without any success ;
  • There are signs of diabetes, like the excess of thirst or hunger, blurred vision, or unexplained weight loss.

In the event of confirmed PCOS, regular medical visits and tests to monitor certain complications such as diabetes or high blood pressure are necessary.

Our specialists at Procrea Fertility are there to help you. Contact us to make an appointment with one of our doctors if you are concerned about PCOS and its symptoms.