If you have oily skin, irregular periods, or difficulty controlling your weight, you may believe that these problems are unavoidable. However, such annoyances could be symptoms of polycystic ovary (or ovarian) syndrome, known as PCOS.
You may not have all the symptoms of the illness. It is common for women to take months, if not years, to realize they have this problem.
PCOS Common Symptoms
The following are common signs and symptoms of PCOS:
- Hair growth in undesirable locations: This is referred to by your doctor as “hirsutism” (pronounced HUR-soo-tiz-uhm). Unwanted hair may be sprouting on your face or chin, breasts, stomach, even thumbs and toes.
- Hair thinning: Women with PCOS may experience thinning hair on their heads, which may worsen as they become older.
- Oily or acne-prone skin: COS-related hormonal alterations might result in oily skin and acne. (You can have similar skin problems without PCOS, of course).
- Skin discoloration: Under your arms or breasts, on the back of your neck, and in the groin area, you may notice thick, black, velvety patches of skin. This is known as acanthosis nigricans.
- Problems sleeping or feeling weary all the time: You might have difficulty getting asleep. You could also be suffering from sleep apnea. This means that even when you sleep, you do not wake up feeling rested.
- Headaches: The surge of hormones that causes PCOS can also produce headaches.
- Periods of heaviness: PCOS can cause significant fluctuations in the menstrual cycle, including extremely heavy bleeding and numerous periods.
- Periods that are irregular: You may not have a period, or it may be irregular.
- Having difficulty becoming pregnant: It can be difficult to get pregnant if you do not have regular cycles. PCOS is one of the most common reasons for infertility.
- Gaining weight: Approximately 50% of women with PCOS struggle with weight gain or have difficulty shedding weight. PCOS can cause significant weight gain. Furthermore, being overweight can aggravate PCOS symptoms. Even a few pounds lost may enhance the time of your periods. Losing weight can be a good method to control your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, which are crucial if you have PCOS.
What are the skin symptoms of PCOS?
Acne caused by PCOS frequently appears on the lower face, including the jawline, chin, and upper neck. Although there is no hard and fast rule, these locations are thought to have a hormonal pattern for acne. Acne lesions in women with PCOS may be deeper, bigger, and take longer to heal. Acne in PCOS frequently worsens around menstruation time. To treat this form of acne, dermatologists frequently recommend oral contraceptives or the medicine spironolactone. When utilized in the proper patients with no contraindications, these treatments can be quite useful in eliminating acne.
Another dermatologic symptom of PCOS is hirsutism, or excessive hair development in areas where hair is normally absent or limited. Hirsutism is most found on the chin, neck, abdomen, chest, or back. However, balding or hair thinning can be noticed on the scalp. Both hair problems are caused by an overabundance of testosterone.
Acanthosis nigricans is a rare skin disorder that causes dark, velvety regions of skin to form in skin creases such as around the neck and underarms. This skin disorder is also linked to insulin resistance and may be caused by insulin-stimulating skin cells, causing them to overgrow.
PCOS, hormonal imbalances, and acne
PCOS is the most frequent reproductive endocrine condition among childbearing women. PCOS affects as many as 10% of teenagers and young women.
Although discussions about PCOS frequently center on the noncancerous growths it creates, hormonal imbalance is at the root of the disorder. Your body relies on pituitary gland signals to create the appropriate amounts of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. PCOS interferes with these signals. Without the proper signals from the pituitary gland, oestrogen and progesterone levels fall while testosterone levels rise.
This can impede ovulation and cause symptoms such as:
- Menstrual irregularities
- hair growth on your face, chest, or back (hirsutism)
- gaining weight
- having difficulties decreasing weight
- Acanthosis nigricans refers to black spots of skin on the back of your neck or other locations.
What else contributes to acne?
PCOS is simply one of numerous acne risk factors.
Acne is caused by:
- surplus oil production
- bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes)
- dead skin cells caught deep in your pores.
- hormone overactivity
Acne can also be caused by:
Certain drugs, such as corticosteroids, might cause stress hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy.
Certain behaviors can also raise your chances of getting acne. This includes the following:
- not cleansing your face on a regular basis.
- drinking insufficient water
- using comedogenic skin care products or makeup
What are the available therapy options?
To treat acne, over-the-counter (OTC) acne treatments often contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and sulfur. Although these chemicals can help with minor breakouts, they are typically insufficient to treat hormonal acne.
The only method to clear PCOS-related acne is to address the underlying hormonal imbalance. Consult your doctor or a dermatologist if you suspect your acne is caused by PCOS. They may prescribe one or more of the drugs listed below.
Although there is no cure for PCOS, there are numerous therapeutic options for controlling the syndrome’s varied symptoms. The remedies employed are determined by a woman’s priorities and symptoms. For example, being at a healthy weight might lead to symptom improvement, thus lifestyle changes such as nutrition and exercise may be beneficial. Hirsutism can be treated with electrolysis or laser hair removal. To increase menstruation regularity, some individuals may take birth control pills. Metformin, a common diabetes medication, can help increase the body’s reaction to insulin.
Treatment is personalized to each individual and is dependent on whether the pregnancy is a short-term objective. Certain drugs, such as spironolactone and retinoids for acne, should be avoided by women who are attempting to conceive.
Hormonal acne is occasionally treated with oral contraceptives (birth control tablets). However, not any birth control pill will suffice. The only birth control pills that will help stabilize your hormone levels throughout your entire menstrual cycle are combination tablets. They often contain ethinyl estradiol as well as one or more of the following:
- progestin norgestimate
- norethindrone acetate
However, birth control tablets are not for everyone. You should not take the tablet if you are over the age of 35 or if you have a history of:
- blood clots
- breast cancer
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
Anti-androgen medicines are prescribed medications that reduce testosterone levels.
Although androgens are regarded as male hormones, they are also found in women. The difference is that women have less. PCOS and other hormonal diseases can cause an excess of testosterone in the body. This can cause acne by increasing sebum and skin cell proliferation. Because not everyone who suffers from hormonal acne has high androgen levels, your doctor will obtain a blood sample to test your levels.
OTC retinoids have typically been used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and level out skin tone. Some acne formulas are also used; however, these are often oriented toward teenagers.
If you have PCOS-related acne, avoid over-the-counter retinoids, and instead consult your physician about prescription-strength choices. They can be consumed orally or administered topically as a cream or gel. The most used retinoid isotretinoin (Accutane) is taken orally.
Because retinoids make your skin very susceptible to UV radiation, it is critical to wear sunscreen liberally throughout the day.
How can you tell if you have PCOS?
Because there is no one test that can be used to identify PCOS, a complete workup that includes lab tests and imaging is required. Typically, lab tests entail assessing the amounts of various hormones, such as androgens. Ultrasound of the ovaries is one type of imaging test. Seeking treatment from an experienced team, which may include primary care physicians, gynecologists, endocrinologists, and dermatologists, can help to establish the diagnosis.
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