Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal, reproductive, and often under-discussed disorder that affects one in 10 women of childbearing age. But the truly complicated thing about PCOS is that it often presents itself through symptoms that are easily overlooked or flippantly attributed to other issues like stress, or even puberty. This is why it's so important to be able to recognize the signs of PCOS, given that they can so easily go undetected.
In fact, a 2010 study found that 70 percent of a cohort of 728 women had PCOS, but had not been diagnosed or treated for the condition, likely because of these tricky symptoms, and the varying ways in which they can present, depending on the person's body.
This is especially concerning because, when left untreated, PCOS can potentially increase your chances of having a miscarriage, it can lead to feelings of depression, and in the worst case scenario, it can lead to the development of more life-threatening illnesses such as endometrial cancer.
Elite Daily spoke with OBGYN and reproductive endocrinologist from CCRM San Francisco, Dr. Sunny Jun, who helps decipher a few of the unexpected signs of PCOS that you should look out for. Be sure to consult with your doctor if you notice any of these signs yourself.
1. Intense Acne
This is a difficult one, because some people may have bad acne due to diet, or simply because they are more prone to pimples than others. But still, it can be a potential sign of PCOS, as well.
According to Dr. Jun, painful, persistent acne can be the result of an increased level of androgens (male sex hormones) in a woman's body when she has PCOS.
2. Abdominal Weight Gain
Of course, weight gain can happen for any number of reasons.
But, says Dr. Jun, unusual and sudden weight gain around the stomach can be a sign of insulin resistance -- another symptom of PCOS.
3. A Dark Ring Around The Neck
Women who have PCOS sometimes develop a dark ring around their necks, a symptom called acanthosis nigricans.
This happens because high levels of insulin can sometimes cause the skin to turn darker. These dark patches can also show up near your under-arms and your groin.
4. Difficulty Conceiving
Unfortunately, the infertility rate among women with PCOS is very high. Some women's bodies do not release an egg properly as a result of the condition, or their ovaries contain too many small cysts that interfere with the process of ovulation and conception.
Dr. Jun says women with PCOS may "not be able to accurately detect ovulation. They can have false positives on their ovulation kits leading to suboptimal attempts at conception."
5. Unusual Hair Growth Or Hair Loss
This is due to the increase in testosterone in your system, which may lead you to experience either abnormal thinning of the hair, or you may see excessive hair growth in places like your face, back, or chest.
It's important to know that these common symptoms can be associated with literally anything -- not just PCOS. Be sure to pay close attention to your body, and continue to see your doctor regularly so you can get the help and support you and your body deserve.