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If you suffer from irregular periods, infertility, and some other symptoms, you may have polycystic ovary syndrome (PSOC), and those frustrating symptoms may be signs of a more serious underlying issue. Read on to learn more.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an oppressive women’s health issue that affects nearly every facet of your well-being. As many as 6 million women in the US have PCOS, but half of them go undiagnosed.

That’s why our team at Serenity Women’s Care in Scottsdale, Arizona, is committed to helping women to recognize the warning signs of PCOS as early as possible.

Here’s a closer look at PCOS and how it affects your health.

What it means to have PCOS

At its core, PCOS is a hormone problem that develops during your childbearing years. With PCOS, your ovaries overproduce male sex hormones (androgens), which wreaks havoc on your body.

As the name suggests, PCOS often causes many small cysts to form in the ovaries, but it’s possible to have this disorder without cysts. Cysts form when you don’t make enough of the hormones required to ovulate properly.

These combined hormonal issues increase the levels of androgens in your system. Women do have small amounts of male sex hormones in their system, but if you have too much, the results can be disastrous.

Many believe PCOS stems from another condition called insulin resistance. When insulin levels rise, so do androgen levels. Others have linked PCOS to obesity, low-grade inflammation, and genetics.

PCOS presents itself differently in every woman, but these five telltale symptoms are almost always present.

1. Irregular periods

Regular periods occur every 28-32 days and last 4-7 days with consistent blood flow. Your period officially becomes irregular when it occurs fewer than 21 days, more than 35 days, is late three months in a row, or suddenly produces a heavier or lighter flow than usual.

Because PCOS is rooted in hormone imbalances and can cause your periods to become irregular, it’s one of the first things we consider when your flow is out of whack.

2. Abnormal hair growth

PCOS involves excess androgens, so women with the condition tend to grow hair where they shouldn’t, such as on the chin, chest, back, stomach, or face. On the flip side, PCOS can also cause male-pattern baldness or thinning hair.

3. Infertility

Infertility is complex and can stem from a wide range of underlying issues, but PCOS is one of the most common reasons. If you’ve been struggling to get pregnant for a year or more, we can schedule a fertility consultation to investigate possible reasons why, including PCOS.

4. Acne and skin changes

The imbalance in your hormone levels contributes to often severe breakouts on your face, chest, and back. PCOS can also cause your skin to change color and become darker along the creases of your body, including your groin, neck, and below your breasts.

5. Weight gain

Which came first: your struggle with weight or your PCOS diagnosis? The jury may still be out on which problem causes the other, but we do know that both problems exacerbate each other.

PCOS is closely linked with insulin resistance, which is also tied to weight gain and difficulty losing weight. So, if it feels like you’re fighting an uphill battle with your weight, let’s talk about the possibility of an underlying hormone problem.

Diagnosing and treating PCOS

There’s no single test to diagnose PCOS, but if we suspect that’s what’s going on, we can do a few things.

We start with an in-depth conversation to understand your current symptoms, your menstrual cycles, and your health history. A physical exam reveals any excessive hair growth, acne, and/or weight gain.

We may also recommend further testing, such as:

  • A pelvic exam to check for cysts
  • Blood tests to measure hormone imbalances
  • Ultrasound to examine your ovaries and uterus closely

If we determine that you have PCOS, treatment usually includes medication, like birth control pills; hormone replacement therapy; and lifestyle changes to help manage other symptoms.

PCOS can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to rule your life. There’s hope in treatment when you team up with one of our compassionate and experienced gynecology specialists. Call or click to schedule an appointment today.

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