5 Surprising Things No One Ever Told You About Pcos

Pcos is a surprisingly common condition, affecting up to 10% of women in the US. But despite it being so common, there’s a whole lot that’s still unknown about it: Experts don’t know exactly what causes it, and as many as 50% of people who have it don’t know that they do.

1. PCOS is a hormonal disorder.
Your ovaries normally produce some “male” hormones called androgens, but women with PCOS make too much. That can cause missed periods, thick body hair, weight gain, and acne. Excess androgens also interfere with ovulation: Each cycle, a follicle is supposed to break open and release a mature egg. In women with PCOS, that doesn’t happen. Instead, the follicle sticks around as a tiny cyst.

2. It’s not all about the cysts. 
PCOS is a pattern of symptoms, and the hallmark cysts are just one of them. Your doctor can spot these cysts on an ultrasound, but they’re often the last piece of the PCOS puzzle. More likely, your doctor will initially start testing forthis disease (perhaps with blood tests to measure hormone levels) because of other telltale symptoms, like irregular periods, excessive body hair, and acne.

3. Even the best doctors can miss it. 
Part of the problem is that there’s no one test used to definitively diagnose this disease it’s considered a diagnosis of “exclusion”, meaning a doctor will determine that you have it by ruling out other conditions that can mimic it. To further complicate matters, PCOS symptoms run the gamut of medical specialists: A dermatologist may treat your acne, but may not ask about your menstrual cycle; your gynecologist may know about your irregular periods, but may not take note of body hair.

4. PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in women.

Many women don’t realize they have PCOS until they try to become pregnant and their irregular periods go from being an inconvenience to an actual problem. “If you don’t get a period every month, then you’re not ovulating every month,” Dokras says. “So the chances of getting pregnant go down. You may need help from a fertility doctor or ob-gyn.” Most women with this disease still have plenty of healthy eggs, so it’s often just a matter of your doctor helping you get your cycle back on track.

5. Insulin may play a role.
PCOS is closely linked to insulin resistance, and many women with PCOS have pre-diabetic symptoms. Experts know that insulin resistance can cause increased androgen levels, but doctors are still researching whether having too much androgen can cause insulin resistance. (In other words, it’s another this disease chicken-or-egg riddle.) Either way, doctors have found the diabetes drug metformin helpful in controlling this diseasesymptoms.


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