It affects one in five women of reproductive age, yet most cases of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome remain undiagnosed.
This is because PCOS is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ condition. It’s a complex metabolic disorder that impacts every sufferer differently. It occurs when there are higher-than-normal amounts of androgens (or male hormones) circulating in the body, preventing ovulation, affecting the menstrual cycle and sometimes causing cysts on the ovaries.
The exact cause is unknown, although it's believed it may be connected to family history, insulin resistance and lifestyle or environment.
And with many celebrities (such as Victoria Beckham) recently coming forward to share their own experiences PCOS, it’s time we talked about the most frequently overlooked symptoms.
Irregular periods or none at all
Not only do PCOS sufferers have elevated levels of androgens, but their ovaries are unable to produce enough progesterone (a female hormone) to have a normal menstrual cycle. This leaves many women skipping periods or missing them all together.
Excessive facial or body hair
These androgens can also stimulate hair growth in some typically less-than-desirable places (such as the upper lip, chin, breasts, back and butt).
For some women with PCOS, the influx of hormones causes thinning on the scalp and a receding hairline in a ‘male-like’ pattern.
Sufferers often see a boost in sebum production, making the skin oilier than usual and causing breakouts in areas such as the face, chest and upper back.
Difficulty getting pregnant
PCOS is the leading cause of infertility as the imbalance in hormones interferes with the body’s ability to regulate ovulation. This is essential for pregnancy to actually take place.
PCOS can’t be cured, but it can be managed with the right treatment. If any of these symptoms sound familiar, visit your doctor.