Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) - Symptoms

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What are the symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?

PCOS's principal signs and symptoms are related to menstrual disturbances and elevated levels of male hormones (androgens). Menstrual disturbances can include delay of normal menstruation (primary amenorrhea), the presence of fewer than normal menstrual periods (oligomenorrhea), or the absence of menstruation for more than three months ( secondary amenorrhea ). Menstrual cycles may not be associated with ovulation (anovulatory cycles) and may result in heavy bleeding.

Symptoms related to elevated androgen levels include acne, excess hair growth on the body (hirsutism), and male-pattern hair loss.

Other PCOS signs and symptoms include:

  • obesity and weight gain,
  • elevated insulin levels and insulin resistance,
  • oily skin,
  • dandruff,
  • infertility,
  • skin discolorations,
  • high cholesterol levels,
  • elevated blood pressure, and
  • multiple, small cysts in the ovaries.

Any of the above symptoms and signs may be absent in PCOS, with the exception of irregular or no menstrual periods. All women with PCOS will have irregular or no menstrual periods . Women who have PCOS do not regularly ovulate; that is, they do not release an egg every month. This is why they do not have regular periods and typically have difficulty conceiving.

Return to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

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Comment from: RNMOM1961, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 06

I have never been formally diagnosed but as a nurse with the symptoms described here I am sure I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). As a young teen I always had late, heavy periods, 8 to 10 weeks apart. I tried birth control several times but had headaches and leg cramps. It took me 5 years to get pregnant with the help of an infertility specialist, a D&C and Clomid. I was on a diet and had lost 10 lbs when I conceived my daughter 26 years ago. I didn"t have acne and weight gain but am an 'apple' shape and have difficulty losing weight even with diet and exercise. Sixteen years ago I conceived in 8 to 10 weeks without the use of Clomid. Over the years I have had cysts on ultrasound they have found during my yearly gynecological exam. I have not had to take metformin or been diagnosed with insulin-resistance. My advice to every woman would be to seek the advice of an infertility specialist if you have POCS and are trying to conceive. I wish all of you the best of luck! As women we must support each other as usually you have friends that do not have PCOS and infertility so they have no idea how you feel.

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Comment from: newme, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: May 02

I am a 49 year old nurse that has been suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) since diagnosed at 19 years old. I had very irregular, heavy, and painful periods since puberty. I also had excessive facial hair and easily gained weight as an adolescent. I have only to look to my mother and grandmother to see my problem because they have all the same symptoms. My mother and grandmother also have type II diabetes. I have radically changed the two things that can fuel PCOS and insulin resistance. Diet and exercise are the best tools that you have. Eliminate all bread and sugars from your diet. It is not perfect, but it works for weight control. I also have the Mirena IUD (intrauterine device) that has drastically controlled my heavy periods and allowed me to be able to leave my house without fear of bleeding all over whatever chair I happen to be sitting in in public. It really sucks being a woman with PCOS, but I believe this is a time to live and not to die. There are much worse things that could happen to me.

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