Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

The symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome are very varied and nonspecific, so the diagnosis may take time to be made. Discover its most important clinical manifestations.
Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Written by Maite Córdova Vena, 02 July, 2021

Last update: 02 July, 2021

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common disorders in women. Its origin still isn’t entirely clear, but there consensus regarding the idea that it occurs as a consequence of the interaction of several different factors. In this article, we’ll be talking about the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome.

This condition is a great challenge for doctors. Apart from the unknowns that exist regarding its origin, it hasn’t been possible to fully specify what its symptoms are. This is partly because many of them are common in other pathologies.

Let’s see more about this below in order to understand what we’re referring to.

Frequent symptoms

Symptoms of PCOS include acne breakouts
The frequent appearance of acne – generally a mild version – is associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, in addition to greasy skin.

Fatigue, headaches, hair loss, breakouts, and fluctuations in body weight aren’t exclusive symptoms of any one condition. Rather, they’re common in many disorders, including polycystic ovary syndrome.

However, it has been frequently observed that many women have irregularities in their menstrual cycle, changes in skin and hair health, weight gain, and others. It should also be noted that the symptoms tend to manifest in adolescence and, as time passes, they become more acute.

Irregularities in the menstrual cycle

The most common symptoms of PCOS include various forms of menstrual irregularity, such as:

  • Menorrhagia: Heavy menstruation
  • Amenorrhea: A total absence of menstrual periods
  • Oligomenorrhea: A lack of menstrual periods
  • Anovulatory periods: Bleeding without ovulation

Weight gain

Many women with PCOS have difficulty losing weight after a significant weight gain, not just a few extra pounds. This increase can be difficult to control in some cases.

An update published in the Journal of Continuing Education of the Spanish Society of Adolescent Medicine, indicates the following in this regard:

Approximately 55-73% of adolescent PCOS patients are  overweight or obese, and it’s of concern that the incidence of the syndrome is increasing (associated with centrally predominant obesity).

The same update also indicates that obesity is frequently associated with insulin resistance. This is why it can worsen the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome, both in metabolic and reproductive terms.

Acne and other skin changes

As explained in an article entitled: Dermatological manifestations of polycystic ovary syndrome, the skin is capable of reflecting the state of health, and in the case of polycystic ovary syndrome there is no exception.

Experts have seen that women with PCOS can have several skin changes. Two of the most prominent are acne and excess oil on the skin, which in turn are associated with high levels of androgens.

However, not all women notice that their skin becomes more oily. Some may notice the opposite: drier skin.

On the other hand, if insulin levels are very high, there could also be darkening and thickening of the skin in some areas of the body (known as acanthosis nigricans ), explains the MSD Manual.

Hair changes

Continuing with the aforementioned article, we have that another of the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome is hirsutism, which is also frequently associated with hyperandrogenemia and insulin resistance.

Hirsutism is the excessive growth of hair in areas where there should be hardly any hair in women, such as on the face (especially in the area of the upper lip, chin, sideburns), neck, chest, areolas mammary, the area around the navel, the groin, the thighs, and the back.

On the other hand, some women experience hair loss instead of hirsutism. The fall can be more or less pronounced, and in many cases, it can follow a pattern similar to that of baldness in men.

Other possible symptoms

Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome include high blood pressure
In some women, the presence of polycystic ovary syndrome may be related to the development of high blood pressure at an early age.

Although less frequent than the symptoms already mentioned, the following can also occur in women with polycystic ovary syndrome:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Fatty liver
  • Pelvic pain
  • Headache
  • Sleep apnea
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritability and mood swings

It should be noted that some symptoms are closely related. For example, lack of sleep can cause headaches and, in turn, irritability and mood swings.

On the other hand, it must be taken into account that this type of discomfort can also occur in a similar way in other health problems. That means they don’t necessarily indicate the presence of polycystic ovary syndrome. Hence the great challenge when making the diagnosis.

Some women with polycystic ovary syndrome don’t present any symptoms and obtain the diagnosis of PCOS after having undergone a routine gynecological check-up or having attended a consultation to resolve other issues.

“Polycystic ovary syndrome is one of the most frequent reasons for consultation in adolescent women”

– MT Muñoz Calvo –

Complications

The symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome vary from case to case. Therefore, not all women are equally affected. Even so, there are a considerable number of cases where women are greatly affected. This is because of the complications that PCOS can bring about.

Sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, fertility problems, and mood disorders are some of the higher-impact potential complications of PCOS.

If you’re of childbearing age and consider that you have discomfort such as those mentioned here, and also have a family history of PCOS, we would highly recommend that you undergo a gynecological check-up. The sooner you know what the problem is, and how to treat it accordingly, the sooner you’ll be back to full health.

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In women, one of the most common health problems is polycystic ovary syndrome. Find out more below.