What Is PCOS, and How Do I Know If I Have It?

Reviewed on 9/15/2020

How would I know if I have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?

The symptoms of PCOS may or may not be definitive at times.
The symptoms of PCOS may or may not be definitive at times.

The diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can be most accurately made by a doctor who will examine you and order certain blood tests and other investigations. The symptoms of PCOS may or may not be definitive at times. If you have PCOS, you may experience the following:

  • Irregular or absent monthly periods
  • Acne
  • Thinning of scalp hair
  • Hirsutism (excessive hair growth on the face and body)
  • Acanthosis nigricans (darkening of the skin, especially along the neck creases, in the groin, and under the breasts
  • Skin tags (small excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area)
  • Weight gain or difficulty in losing weight
  • Infertility or difficulty in conceiving

For the diagnosis of PCOS, your doctor will look for the presence of at least two of the following three symptoms:

  1. Irregular or absent monthly periods, which is caused by the lack of ovulation
  2. Higher-than-normal levels of androgens (male hormones), which can cause excessive hair growth on the face and body, acne, or thinning of scalp hair
  3. Multiple small cysts on the ovaries seen on ultrasonography (imaging studies)

Two of the aforementioned three criteria are essential for the diagnosis of PCOS. The mere presence of cysts is not enough because many women without PCOS may have ovarian cysts. Additionally, many women who have PCOS may not have cysts in their ovaries.

What exactly is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the commonest treatable causes of infertility. It is a medical condition that causes imbalances in the reproductive hormones in women. Ovaries are almond-shaped organs that are part of the reproductive system in women. They make the egg that is released every month during the menstrual cycle. Hormonal imbalance in PCOS affects the ovaries. Thus, in PCOS, the egg may not develop or may not be released normally.

PCOS is a common condition affecting 1 in 10 women. It is also one of the most common causes of infertility in women, affecting around five million women in the United States. Women with PCOS may have irregular periods, infertility, acne, thinning of hair, and weight gain. Irregular periods affect the ability to conceive and cause the development of small fluid-filled sacs (cysts) in the ovaries.

Can a woman with PCOS get pregnant?

Yes, a woman with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can get pregnant. PCOS is a very common but treatable cause of infertility affecting around five million women in the United States. With proper lifestyle management (healthy diet and physical activity) and medications, women with PCOS can get pregnant and give birth to a healthy baby. 

Hormonal imbalance in women with PCOS interferes with the growth and release of the ovum (egg) from the ovaries (ovulation). Ovulation is necessary for a woman to get pregnant. If you have PCOS and wish to conceive, you must consult your doctor. They may prescribe you treatment to help you ovulate and increase your chances of conceiving. 

You can use an ovulation calculator to know the days you are most likely to be fertile. During the typical menstrual cycle of around 28 days, although it varies in different women, there are about six days when you can get pregnant (the fertile window). The ovulation calculator helps you to know your fertile window and increases your likelihood of getting pregnant.

SLIDESHOW

Sex-Drive Killers: The Causes of Low Libido See Slideshow

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

References
https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/polycystic-ovary-syndrome

https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/pcos.html

https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/fertility-blog/2020/march/five-myths-about-pcos

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors