There are so many signs you may have polycystic ovarian syndrome, but it tends to go undiagnosed until you encounter a larger problem like trouble getting pregnant or an inability to lose weight. The signs and symptoms may be diagnosed as something else, but if you have several of these symptoms make sure to ask your doctor if you could have PCOS. I have had every single one of these symptoms since my early teens and no doctor ever diagnosed me until this year. I started the medicine I was prescribed and nearly every symptom has lessened. These symptoms are very hard to cope with and many are sort of embarrassing. Just know that there are numerous women out there dealing with the same issues; you’re not alone. 5-10% of women have PCOS but only about half have actually been diagnosed. If you have any of the signs you may have polycystic ovarian syndrome, look into it further by searching Google, or better yet, talk to your doctor!
1. Irregular Menstrual Cycle
One of the most important signs you may have polycystic ovarian syndrome is menstrual cycle irregularities. Personally, I rarely had my period growing up (I know for some that may sound like a blessing… and to be honest, I didn’t mind). I would have it 3-4 times per year. Doctors told me it could be stress or “something else” causing this to happen. If your periods start becoming erratic and you aren’t a young teen or approaching menopause, you should ask your doctor to evaluate you for PCOS.
2. Excessive Hair Growth (Hirsutism)
For me this has always been one of the more difficult symptoms. I have to keep up with hair growth far more than other women my age. If I shave my legs in the morning, they are prickly by the time I go to bed that night. I always had a unibrow growing up and I have hair growth down the side of my face and under my chin. The hair isn't course like a man's beard it is very soft and fine. It’s embarrassing to admit that even on here. I take care of all of this constantly so no one will know (until now). Eyebrows and face have to be waxed, legs shaved every single day (I’m allergic to Nair and other hair removal creams, so I have to shave). Some women develop hair around their nipples or a “happy trail” leading down to their naughty bits. Excessive hair on the arms/hands and toes is also a common sign. Instead of this male pattern hair growth you may instead experience male pattern baldness. Excessively thin head hair and bald spots are an alarming sign of PCOS.
3. Incredibly Hard to Lose Belly Fat
My weight has always been an issue for me. I was a chubby teenager and an overweight adult. I tried fad diets, I tried working out, I tried Weight Watchers. All of these would work for losing a few pounds, but after a loss of 5 or so pounds all weight loss would stop no matter what I did. The weight for women with PCOS is almost always carried right around the waistline and lower abdomen. A vast majority of women with PCOS are obese. Since starting the meds for PCOS 7 months ago I have lost 50 lbs! It’s not a magic pill though, I definitely changed the way I eat and I attempt to exercise more.
4. Skin Tags
People can get skin tags without having PCOS, but they are usually one or two here and there. Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome tend to have them all over their armpits, neck and occasionally groin area. Mine are on my neck and underarms. I probably have around 30 of them. There are several ways to remove them, but after a while of performing the usually mildly painful procedure you get tired of trying to keep up with them. If you have tons of these annoying little skin tags, it’s a clear sign PCOS is a possibility.
5. Dark Patches of Skin
When I was younger my mother would CONSTANTLY tell me I need to wash my neck. She, for whatever reason, thought I just never remembered to wash my neck. I would tell her I already had and she’d try to scrub the “dirt” off anyway. As I’ve gotten older it has basically taken over my neck (front and back) as well as my armpits and inner thighs, backs of my heels and directly below my knees. Essentially all of the areas on your body that should be super soft and sensitive turn to a light brown to black scaly feeling skin. Since I started taking Metformin it has almost completely vanished!
6. Seemingly Incurable Acne
When I was younger I had uncontrollable acne on my chin, forehead and all over my back. I had to be medicated when I was younger to help get rid of it. As I got older it went away on its own. I do still get the occasional pimple or two, but I did grow out of it. Nonetheless, it is a big sign of PCOS.
Many many women with PCOS suffer from anxiety and/or depression (both for me). It’s hard to go through life with scaly patches of skin, skin tags, a round belly, acne and hair all over. In a society that focuses on beauty and attractiveness, it’s easy to allow all of those things to make you feel bad about yourself. I’m fairly happy with the way I look now, but I was shy and kept mostly to myself in high school. I learned how to take care of (hide) my symptoms better by the time I started college so that wasn’t nearly as bad for me. If you need some emotional support trying joining the group soulcysters.com where you can get all sorts of information and find out what sort of changes helped others.
Even now, when I’m finally comfortable in my own skin, it’s still hard and embarrassing for me to spill my guts to you so publically. But I feel that this is one health issue that not enough women know about and too many women have so it needs to be addressed. PCOS is hereditary and causes an inability for your body to use insulin correctly. A lot of women with PCOS develop Type 2 Diabetes or become infertile, so it is incredibly important to get yourself to a doctor if you have several of these symptoms. If you’re uninsured, go to Planned Parenthood or another clinic that provides service on a sliding fee scale. There are a handful of medicines you can take that will help nearly all of these symptoms. I now take 4 pills every day but I feel and look so much better. If you have PCOS, what advice do you have for our readers?