Do I have PCOS?
Frustrated with your appearance and weight compared to other women, you have been going your fair share of reading lately, and after scanning through several articles on some prominent dieting and feminine health blogs, you now wonder to yourself, “do I have PCOS?”
Being a complex disorder, you shouldn’t attempt a PCOS diagnosis single-handedly, but there are symptoms that commonly occur in tandem with each other that should send you to your doctor with this disease in mind, should you be suffering from them.
Answering the question, “Do I have PCOS?” is never an easy task, but by going through the following list of common maladies that many PCOS sufferers often have, you can head to your physician knowing that a PCOS diagnosis will be the likely result.
Let’s go over each of these common symptoms in detail…
Irregular menstrual periods
The best time to detect PCOS is as early as possible in your life, as the side-effects of this metabolic abnormality can have negative health implications the longer you ignore it throughout the course of your life.
Once you or your daughter begin to menstruate, keep track of their/your periods. If some months go by without your period happening, it might be an early warning sign that PCOS is present or is in the course of developing within you (1).
Of all the indicators that would indicate a PCOS diagnosis, irregularities in one’s menstrual periods sticks out the most.
Excessive hair in places where there shouldn’t be any, and other male-like features
There are several metabolic abnormalities that cause problems within a woman’s body if she has Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. If you exhibit visually obvious symptoms such as excess hair on the face, stomach, chest, thumbs, and/or toes, you should be seriously be wondering, “Do I have PCOS?”
This predilection towards having large amounts of hair in places where it shouldn’t be on women is caused by the overproduction of testosterone by the ovaries due to their stimulation by high levels of free insulin caused by the mechanics of PCOS (2).
As such, if you display those signs, plus other indicators of testosterone activity such as a decrease in breast size, a deepening of your voice, and the thinning of the hair on your head, you may want to consult your physician for a possible PCOS diagnosis.
Poor facial complexion (aka acne)
When you moved beyond your teenage years, your hormones were supposed to settle down, and with that, your acne was supposed to fade away. However, not only has it not, but it comes back with a vengeance whenever you have your period. You’re not going through puberty every month, it very well could be PCOS.
With the elevated levels of testosterone in your system that the processes of PCOS triggers, the aftereffects the excess male hormones that are broken down in your body stimulate oil production by your skin glands. This inevitably leads to blockages, and with that, acne.
Unlike pimples associated with puberty though, PCOS acne tends to flare up in spots that are hormonally sensitive, especially the lower portion of your face. They also hurt a lot more than acne formed by teen hormones, dirt or makeup aided blockages, or if they are sensitive to the touch, you might want to include a trip to your family doctor along with your visit to the dermatologist (3).
You are overweight or obese
While you might think this is an obvious indicator, weight gain in people have a wide variety of root causes, from other metabolic conditions to emotional and psychologically related triggers that lead to habitual overeating.
At the very heart of PCOS is an insensitivity to insulin. The reduced effectiveness of your previously existing quantities of this hormone leads to your body making legions of this compound, leading to excessive fat storage in your adipose cells, as well as aggravating the ovaries as discussed earlier (4).
If you are overweight and have any of the other symptoms revealed in this article, it is well worth your while to see a doctor for a potential PCOS diagnosis, if only to clear the air about what problem you are actually facing.
You are having trouble conceiving
One of more distressing symptoms of PCOS, given the limited biological window for women to become pregnant in their life, is infertility, or difficulty in conceiving. Another of the problems that excess insulin causes PCOS women is the damage that it does to the follicles that are responsible for ejecting the egg out into the fallopian tubes (5).
They don’t develop properly, resulting in the egg not getting popped out of the immature follicles. If you have been trying religiously to get pregnant, but have nothing to show for it after months and months of attempts, ask yourself, “Do I have PCOS?”, then head to your doctor for a definitive answer.
So, how is PCOS diagnosed anyhow?
While there is no bona fide test at this time for PCOS, your doctor will make a variety of inferences to arrive at a confident conclusion of a PCOS diagnosis. They will look over your past medical history and contrast it with your reported symptoms.
After this, they will run tests to rule out other potential conditions that could be responsible for your symptoms. Specifically, your doctor will likely examine your pelvic region with an ultrasound to check for swollen ovaries, a key indicator of PCOS.
If growths indicative of multiple cysts caused by PCOS are found, it may be enough for them to short list this syndrome as the likely cause of your problems. To be sure though, tissue will be taken for a biopsy, to make sure that it is in fact PCOS and not something more serious, like ovarian cancer.
Additionally, blood tests will be run to assess your hormone levels as they relate to PCOS (testosterone, insulin, androgen, etc), as well as marker hormones through your thyroid and your cholesterol levels, as these two functions are also affected when a woman has PCOS.
With this wealth of information, your doctor of their diagnosis, whether it is PCOS or some other malady. The latter aspect makes it vital that you do not attempt a self PCOS diagnosis, as you could pronounce yourself with PCOS when something more sinister (like cancer) could be wreaking havoc on your body (6).