PCOS Symptoms and Signs

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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common metabolic disorder seen in women of childbearing age. While women with PCOS have similar symptoms, the type and severity are often different for each woman.

PCOS is a complicated disorder with many possible signs and symptoms. The increase in androgens, insulin resistance, and inflammation, all contribute to the variety of the symptoms that women experience.

Androgens are male hormones which cause typical male characteristics in women. These symptoms can be upsetting to women and cause a distressing change in appearance. Depression is common as a result.

Here are the most common signs and symptoms associated with PCOS:


Hirsutism is a term for excess hair growth in women and is a result of higher androgen levels, such as testosterone. Typically, there is an increased hair growth in the central part of the body (chest, face, back, lower abdomen, fingers, toes).

Hair loss

Women with PCOS tend to experience hair loss, again from higher androgens levels. Hair loss in women with PCOS is similar to male pattern baldness.In extreme cases, women with PCOS may experience bald patches or alopecia. 


PCOS is the main cause of ovulatory infertility. As a result, women with PCOS face more difficulty in conceiving or becoming pregnant. It is common for women with the condition to have  absent or irregular periods, or not ovulating each month.This is caused by an imbalance of sex hormones.


Other Skin Issues

Some women with PCOS will experience problems with their skin that can be very upsetting. Dermatological concerns such as acne or hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) are conditions caused by higher androgens in women.  HS causes unsightly and sometimes fowl smelling bumps or boils under your armpits, breasts, or groin area.


Skin tags or Acanthosis nigricans (Latin for dark skin) are patches of dark, thickened, velvety skin typically located behind the neck, on the thighs, or on the vulva. This is usually a sign of insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance

High levels of insulin are present in as many as 70% of women with PCOS. This causes elevated blood glucose levels and is a major risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes

Prolonged exposure to high levels of glucose and the reduced sensitivity of body cells to insulin eventually make the body unable to deal with sugar. When glucose levels are persistently high, complications develop. These include problems with eye sight, kidney disease, and neuropathy, which is a loss of feeling and circulation in the body limbs.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apneacommonly characterized by snoring, is sometimes found in women with PCOS. Sleep apnea may be caused by increased weight as well as increased levels of testosterone which affect sleep receptors in the brain. Sleep apnea can contribute to insulin resistance and high blood pressure. 

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