Top 5 Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Dr. Tashko outlines the main PCOS symptoms: irregular periods, excess hair growth, acne, weight gain, and difficulty conceiving. These are key signs that should prompt evaluation by an endocrinologist.

Introduction – PCOS Care in Montgomery County, Maryland

As a PCOS specialist based in Montgomery County, Maryland, my focus lies in offering personalized care for individuals grappling with polycystic ovarian syndrome. I employ a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to address my patients’ unique needs and conditions.

Conveniently located in Rockville, my practice offers virtual and in-person services, extending support to nearby areas such as Chevy Chase, Bethesda, North Bethesda, Potomac, North Potomac, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Frederick, Silver Spring, Northern Virginia, Howard County, Anne Arundel, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland, ensuring comprehensive care.

Background

PCOS is a common hormonal imbalance impacting many women of childbearing age, with about 1 in 10 women affected. It can cause a range of symptoms that differ from person to person. Recognizing the key signs is important in identifying and managing these symptoms effectively.

Here Are the Top 5 Symptoms of PCOS:

  1. Irregular Periods: This is perhaps the most common symptom of PCOS. Periods may be infrequent, irregular, or very light. You might miss periods altogether, or experience unpredictable cycles that make it difficult to plan ahead. This irregularity is often caused by problems with ovulation, the process where an egg is released from the ovary. Without regular ovulation, the hormonal changes that normally trigger a period do not occur.
  2. Excess Hair Growth: PCOS can lead to increased growth of dark, coarse hair on the face, chest, stomach, back, and thighs (hirsutism). This is due to elevated levels of androgens, which are typically male hormones. Women with PCOS may also experience male-pattern hair loss on the scalp.
  3. Weight Gain and Difficulty Losing Weight: Many women with PCOS struggle with weight management. This can be due to insulin resistance, a condition where the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Insulin resistance can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  4. Skin Changes: Acne and oily skin are common symptoms of PCOS, again related to the hormonal imbalance. PCOS can also cause darkening of the skin on the back of the neck, groin, and under the breasts (acanthosis nigricans). These areas may also develop a velvety texture.
  5. Difficulty Getting Pregnant: PCOS can disrupt ovulation, making it difficult to conceive naturally. If you have been trying to get pregnant for a year without success (or six months if you are over 35), it is important to see an endocrinologist to explore possible causes, including PCOS.

Other Possible Symptoms 

In addition to the top 5, there are other symptoms that may occur with PCOS, such as:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Mood swings and anxiety
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Headaches

PCOS Treatment

There is no cure for PCOS, but there are effective treatments to manage the symptoms and improve your overall health. Treatment options may include:

  • Lifestyle changes: Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly can significantly improve your symptoms.
  • Medication: Medications can help regulate your menstrual cycle, address hormonal imbalances, and treat acne.
  • Fertility treatments: If you are trying to conceive, medications or ovulation-inducing drugs can help.

Summary

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a hormonal imbalance affecting many women.  Irregular periods, excess hair growth, weight gain, skin changes, and fertility issues are top symptoms. PCOS has no cure, but lifestyle changes, medication, and fertility treatments can help manage symptoms and improve overall health and wellbeing. 

Dr. Tashko