Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

What is it and what are the symptoms?

PCOS is a hormonal imbalance linked to insulin resistance that can cause devastating symptoms to the PCOS sufferer.   

Polycystic ovaries contain a large number of harmless follicles that can be up to 8 mm (approximately 0.3 in) in size. The follicles are under-developed sacs in which eggs develop. In PCOS, these sacs are often unable to release an egg, which means that ovulation doesn't take place.

It's difficult to know exactly how many women have PCOS, but it's thought to be very common, affecting about one in every five women in the UK. More than half of these women don't have any symptoms.  If PCOS is not diagnosed and managed through a healthy eating and lifestyle, it can lead to more serious health conditions. You can read about the wider impact of PCOS on your general health on page 63 of my book.   

Symptoms include:

  • Irregular, non existent or flooding  periods
  • Infertility
  • Hirsutism (excessive facial and/or bodily hair)
  • Thinning hair
  • Acne/oily skin
  • Ovulation problems
  • Recurring miscarriages
  • Hormonal imbalances, linked to insulin resistance
  • A slow or sluggish metabolism
  • Weight gain (which can lead to obesity)
  • Cravings or binges on carbohydrates or sugary foods
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Aching joints
  • Stress, depression, mood swings
  • Skin tags and brown skin patches
  • Pelvic pain - a dull ache, either constant or intermittent, possibly radiating to the lower back or thighs

PCOS can be difficult for your medical examiner to diagnose because sufferers can have just two or three severe symptoms from the list, or many symptoms but to a lesser degree.   

If you feel you could be suffering from PCOS it's important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible. This can be done through a blood test and an ultrasound scan. 

Many women are never diagnosed - If you have more than two of the symptoms tell your doctor

Many women are never diagnosed - If you have more than two of the symptoms tell your doctor