A Teen Girl's Guide to PCOS

What you need to know

Teen girl after Ultrasound Exam
Getty Images/SandraKim

Unless you or someone you know has it, chances are that you’ve never heard of polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. It’s actually one of the most common hormonal diseases affecting young women.

PCOS is a condition where a girl makes too much testosterone and other male hormones. Too much testosterone can cause hair growth on the face or chest, acne and irregular periods.

Symptoms usually appear during the teenage or young adult years, but there isn’t a set list of symptoms that causes doctors to definitely diagnose you with PCOS.

Every woman who has PCOS has different symptoms, and many women don’t even realize that they have the condition until they are much older.

PCOS typically runs in families and scientists have recently identified some of the genes involved in the syndrome.

Diagnosing PCOS

It can be tricky to diagnose PCOS in teens because many of the symptoms are similar to normal changes of adolescence. Many teens have irregular periods, acne and hair growth, even if they don’t have PCOS.

If your doctor suspects that you have PCOS, there are some basic diagnostic tests that can be done.

Blood tests are used to check the levels of certain hormones, including FSH, LH, DHEA (a male hormone, and form of testosterone) and AMH (anti-mullerian hormone).

Your doctor will likely want to ultrasound your ovaries to check for cysts, which are common in PCOS. To get the best view, a transvaginal ultrasound may be used. This is where the ultrasound probe is placed into the vagina instead of on top of the abdomen.

However, if you are a virgin or uncomfortable with the procedure, the doctor will probably try to use an abdominal ultrasound, but it can be difficult to see the ovaries.

What To Expect With PCOS

If you are diagnosed with PCOS, you should know that it’s not deadly or terribly serious. This condition won’t require surgery or hospital stays.

Your doctor may recommend certain lifestyle changes and regular follow-up visits, but that’s about it.

One recommendation may be to try to get your weight down to a healthy level if you are overweight. Women with PCOS often have a harder time losing weight. It might be helpful to see a dietitian, who will likely suggest you add more exercise and focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.

Make sure that you get a regular period. If you notice that you haven’t had one in several months, get in touch with your doctor (or have your mom call) so that he can advise you what to do. Many doctors will prescribe the birth control pill or other hormonal supplement to ensure that you get a regular period.

You should also talk to your doctor about treating any annoying or embarrassing symptoms, such as acne or unwanted hair growth. Different treatments and medications can help.

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