If you have oily skin, missed periods, or trouble managing your weight, you may think those issues are just a normal part of your life. But such frustrations could actually be signs that you have polycystic ovary (or ovarian) syndrome, also known as PCOS.
The condition has many symptoms, and you may not have all of them. It’s pretty common for it to take women a while -- even years -- to find out they have this condition.
Common Symptoms of PCOS
Common signs and symptoms of PCOS are:
- Hair growth in unwanted areas. Your doctor may call this “hirsutism” (pronounced HUR-soo-tiz-uhm). You might have unwanted hair growing on your face or chin, breasts, stomach, or thumbs and toes.
- Hair loss. Women with PCOS might see thinning hair on their head, which could worsen in middle age.
- Acne or oily skin. Hormone changes due to PCOS can cause oily skin and pimples. (You can have these skin problems without PCOS, of course).
- Darkening of skin. You may see thick, dark, velvety patches of skin under your arms or breasts, on the back of your neck, and in your groin area. This condition is called acanthosis nigricans.
- Problems sleeping or feeling tired all the time. You could have trouble falling asleep. Or you might have a disorder known as sleep apnea. This means that even when you do sleep, you do not feel well-rested after you wake up.
- Headaches. The surging hormones that cause PCOS can give you headaches, too.
- Heavy periods. PCOS can cause big swings in the menstrual cycle, including very heavy bleeding and frequent periods.
- Irregular periods. You may not have a period, or it may skip a few months.
- Trouble getting pregnant. Not having regular periods can make it difficult to get pregnant. PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility.
- Weight gain. About half of women with PCOS struggle with weight gain or have a hard time losing pounds. PCOS can make you gain a lot of weight. And being overweight can make PCOS symptoms more serious. Shedding even just a few pounds may improve the timing of your periods. Losing weight can be a healthy way to keep your cholesterol and blood sugar levels in check, both of which are important if you have PCOS.
When to See a Doctor
If you have any of these symptoms, let your doctor know. There are treatments or lifestyle changes you can try to rule out other health conditions and learn if you have PCOS. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can start feeling better.