The most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age and young girls is the polycystic ovary syndrome. This symptom is especially common between the ages of 18 to 44. Even the girls at the age of 11 can be affected by polycystic ovary syndrome.
In the US, one in every 15 women suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome.
The most common factors that influence this hormonal condition are lack of physical activity, family history of the syndrome, obesity and overproduction of the male sex hormone testosterone which is found in women only in small quantities.
The testosterone levels may also be increased by insulin resistance, so insulin resistance may also cause polycystic ovary syndrome.
The body itself produces the hormone insulin to lower the levels of blood sugar. In case of insulin resistance, the insulin cannot lower the blood sugar levels and they rise to a dangerous point.
Meanwhile, more insulin is produced in the body. As this continues, the insulin levels in the body become high.
The most common cause for female infertility is the polycystic ovary syndrome. The syndrome causes absence of ovulation or anovulatory infertility.
Every month, the ovaries produce a mature egg that may or may not get fertilized. This reproductive process is called ovulation.
The polycystic ovary syndrome cannot be cured. However, the symptoms of the syndrome can be controlled by some lifestyle changes such as losing weight and more physical activity.
Other common treatments are metformin, clomiphene and birth control pills. The physical symptoms of the syndrome like hirsutism are often minimized with cosmetic procedures such as laser surgery.
Early identification of the symptoms – a big concern
Women often ignore the symptoms of the polycystic ovary syndrome. They don’t try to link them and connect them with this hormonal condition.
As women often ignore the symptoms, they realize that they have this hormonal disorder when they try to get pregnant.
According to a study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism published in 2005, American women of reproductive age that suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome spend almost four and a half billion dollars each year on diagnostic procedures and medical treatments.
Only 2 % of this money are spent on the diagnostic procedures. This shows that polycystic ovary syndrome is rarely diagnosed early. Moreover, if the syndrome is diagnosed early the severity of the symptoms will be minimized and less money will be spent on the treatments.
Women who suffer from polycystic ovaries may experience some or all the symptoms of the condition. In this article, we present the most common symptoms and signs of polycystic ovary syndrome.
1. Irregular menstrual cycles
The most common symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome is persistent irregular periods.
As we already mentioned above, the syndrome is caused by overload with testosterone in the body. The high levels of testosterone cause cysts to grow in the body. Menstruation is obstructed as the cysts don’t allow the ovaries to release mature eggs.
Irregular periods are common and normal during the teenage years. However, in some cases, this may be an early sign of polycystic ovary syndrome. The syndrome is also accompanied by other symptoms in these years.
According to a study in Human Reproduction from 2014, irregular menstrual cycles during the teenage years is often connected to the polycystic ovary syndrome and future infertility.
If the irregular periods continue during the late teens and beyond, they are a very common sign of polycystic ovary syndrome.
2. Primary amenorrhea or lack of menstruation
Primary amenorrhea is less common symptom than irregular menstrual cycle. It is also rarer than secondary amenorrhea. In case of secondary amenorrhea a woman with normal menstrual cycles stops having menstruation for 6 or more months.
In case of primary amenorrhea a girl does not get her period until the age of 16 to 18. In this case again high levels of testosterone prevent the release of mature eggs from the ovaries and completely inhibit the menstruation.
Several physical deficiencies and disorders may cause lack of menstruation. Yet, lack of menstruation is also an early sign of polycystic ovary syndrome.
3. Excessive hair on the face and body
Hirsutism is excessive growth of hair on the body and face. High levels of testosterone cause this problem. Hirsutism is one of the most common symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome.
The parts of the body that are most often affected by hirsutism are the upper leap, the stomach, the jaw area, the chin area, the chest, the arms, the thighs and the legs.
According to a study in the American Family Physician from 2012, hirsutism is most often caused by polycystic ovary syndrome. In fact, three out of four cases of hirsutism are caused by the syndrome.
Facial hair is a difficult condition to deal with. Moreover, removing this hairs can consume a lot of time and money.
4. Thin hair and hair loss
Finding a lot of hairs on the pillow in the morning or losing a lot of hair while shampooing your hair is a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome.
Any hormone imbalance as well as polycystic ovary syndrome can be accompanied by hair thinning and rapid loss of the hair.
The high and active testosterone levels in the body reach the scalp and convert to their derivate called dihydrotestosterone. This derivate interacts with the enzyme in the hair follicles.
Then, the derivate binds with the follicles and makes them shrink. The shrinking slows down the growth of the hair, and the hair gradually becomes thinner.
The hair being brittle and weak may also be explained with the presence of the polycystic ovary syndrome.
Acne after the teenage years, or more precisely in the 20s or after the age of 25, are a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome.
Persistent acne as well as hirsutism are a result of high testosterone levels. The testosterone stimulates the production of oil in the sebaceous glands.
Acne associated with the polycystic ovary syndrome usually occurs on the upper neck, cheeks, jaw line and chin. They are usually hard bumps under the skin rather than overt bumps that are visible.
They usually flare up before the menstrual cycle and persist more than regular acne. The color of this acne is usually red. They are also followed by a yellowish or white painful head.
6. Weight gain, obesity and difficulty with the losing weight process
Women who suffer from the polycystic ovary syndrome may not be obese but they are usually not thin. These women have slow metabolisms and usually have more kilograms than normal for their body shape and height.
According to a study in the International Journal of Obesity and Other Related Metabolic Disorders from 2002, half of the women with polycystic ovaries are obese or overweight. Most of these women have a lot of abdominal fat.
The inability to lose weight is also a very common symptom of the syndrome. Losing even a few kilograms may be a problem for a woman with the syndrome, even if she eats healthy and works out regularly.
You may check yourself for the syndrome if your friends are losing weight while following the same routine as you and you haven’t loss even a single pound.
7. High blood pressure
Cardiovascular complications are also common in case of a polycystic ovary syndrome. High blood pressure or hypertension is also common in case of polycystic ovary syndrome.
According to a study in The American Journal of Hypertension from 2015, hypertension is a common symptom in women with increased BMI – body mass index.
You may suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome if you are overweight and you have high blood pressure as well as some other symptoms and signs of this syndrome.
8. Abnormal discoloration of the skin
The polycystic ovary syndrome may also cause abnormalities of the skin such as black or brown thick patches. These patches usually appear in the skin folds like the neck folds, groin area, between the thighs, the forehead, breasts, navel and armpits. Sometimes these patches may also appear on the hands, the knees and the elbows. This skin condition is known as acanthosis nigricans.
According to a research published in 2011 in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, 6 in 30 patients with acanthosis nigricans also have polycystic ovaries.
The corrosive, thick and discolored skin on different parts of the body in women with polycystic ovaries is caused by the high levels of insulin or insulin resistance.
This skin problem may also be accompanied by tiny skin growths as warts that hang from the skin. According to a research from 2004, almost 69% of women with polycystic ovaries have acanthosis nigricans.
Women with polycystic ovaries experience a lot of stress due to hirsutism. According to studies, most of women with polycystic ovary syndrome experience neurotic, high or extremely high stress.
If you are stressed and have some other signs and symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome, you may be undiagnosed with this syndrome.
The signs and symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome are often accompanied with depression.
According to studies and research, women with polycystic ovaries often experience anxiety and depression.
Also, patients with higher BMIs had higher levels of depression and anxiety than the women with lower BMIs.
Consult a doctor if you are feeling depressed and you have other symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome.