Could You Have PCOS?
September is PCOS awareness month, and in the spirit of sharing more about the condition and how we help our patients manage it, I wanted to dive deeper into some of the lesser known symptoms. Could you have PCOS?
Whether or not you’re trying to conceive, knowing if you have the most common reproductive hormone condition in reproductive aged women is important. Not only does PCOS impact your ability to fall pregnant and carry to term a healthy baby without complications, it also comes with increased risks of cardiovascular and metabolic health concerns that can continue to impact your health into menopause.
And while there are a set of criteria (called the Rotterdam criteria) that need to be present for you to be diagnosed with PCOS, there are many other common symptoms of the condition that, when present, warrant investigation to rule it in and treat it, or rule it out and keep digging.
First, the Rotterdam criteria.
When your physician wants to determine if you fit the diagnosed of PCOS, they’ll look for the following three criteria. Only 2 of the 3 need to be present for the diagnosis. They are:
Irregular ovulatory pattern: you may not ovulate every month, often resulting in irregular cycles (they don’t come at the same time every month) that tend to be 35 days or longer (many women with PCOS will have a handful of menses a year, some will have no menses for months or years on end)
Signs of androgen excess: either a blood test confirms you have high androgens (like testosterone and androstenedione) or you have symptoms of androgen excess like acne, ‘male pattern’ baldness, or hirsutism (unwanted thick hair growth on your chin, chest, or neck)
Polycystic ovaries visible on ultrasound
Keep in mind only 2 of 3 of these need to be present for a diagnosis. But how does your Acubalance doctor know whether to work you up for PCOS if you don’t have the overt signs of long cycles and excess androgens? We’ll ask about other common, non-diagnostic, signs.
Many women who I treat present with some of the following symptoms, but have never been evaluated for PCOS.
If you have some of these symptoms, ask your MD to work you up for PCOS. If you know that you have it, you can implement strategies now that will not only support your current or future fertility, but mitigate the long term associated risks.
Some common, non-diagnostic, symptoms of PCOS include:
- high AMH levels (often tested if you’re TTC)
- an LH:FSH ratio higher than 2:1 (tested on cycle day 3)
- blood sugar swings reminiscent of insulin resistance (feeling hangry between meals, hard to keep yourself feeling satiated)
- weight gain (although between 20-50% off women with PCOS are normal weight)
- hair loss or thinning from the top of your head or recession of the hairline
- oily skin and/or acne
- excessive hair on the chin/neck/chest (or a history of it! Have you had laser hair removal in these areas?)
- patches of thickened, darkened skin in the folds of your neck, underarms, breasts or thighs (often referred to as ‘velvety’)
- skin tags
- depression, anxiety or mood swings
- headaches in response to hormonal changes
- sleep apnea (which may feel like you have trouble falling asleep or never feel rested after a good night of sleep)
- increased blood pressure
If some of these symptoms are ringing bells, you should ask your primary care MD or ND to evaluate you for PCOS. A holistic treatment plan including diet and lifestyle adjustment, acupuncture, low level laser therapy (LLLT), nutritional supplements, and herbal medicine is the best approach to management. If your doctor offers you the birth control pill to treat your PCOS then it is a band-aid approach and it is only delaying the inevitable and prolonging the risk factors above. You may want to find a another doctor to help you manage your reproductive and metabolic health.
Do you think you might have PCOS? Contact us at 604-678-8600 to discuss how we can help you get the diagnosis and treatment you need.