Polycystic ovarian syndrome symptoms: Excess hair on four body parts could be telling

Frankie Bridge says she’s been diagnosed with polycystic ovaries

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Affecting around one in every 10 women in the UK, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) occurs when the ovaries – part of the female reproductive system – contain underdeveloped follicles. These follicles can reach up to 8mm in size, but are underdeveloped, so they’re unable to release an egg. One telling sign of PCOS is excess hair growth on the face, chest, back or buttocks.

This excess hair growth (known as hirsutism) is down to an abnormally high level of the male hormone androgen.

PCOS sufferers are likely to have higher insulin levels and suffer from insulin resistance.

As a consequence of high insulin levels, women who have PCOS are at greater risk of:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High cholesterol.

“Common symptoms” of PCOS can include:

  • Irregular periods
  • No periods at all
  • Difficulty to get pregnant
  • Weight gain
  • Thinning hair
  • Hair loss from the head
  • Oily skin
  • Acne.

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“You should talk to your GP if you have any of these symptoms and think you may have PCOS,” the NHS advised.

Do bear in mind that not all women with PCOS will have all of these symptoms.

Furthermore, each symptom in itself can vary from mild to severe in severity.

Fertility issues might come to light when a woman is trying to conceive.

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When a woman has PCOS, and the underdeveloped sacs can’t release an egg, ovulation doesn’t take place.

Without PCOS, during each menstrual cycle, the ovaries release an egg into the uterus – this is known as ovulation.

This means if unprotected sexual intercourse was to take place there is a chance of the sperm meeting the egg.

If no egg is released, the sperm can’t fuse with an egg that isn’t there.

Can I prevent PCOS?

The condition is thought to be related to abnormal hormone levels, such as:

  • Raised levels of testosterone
  • Raised levels of luteinising hormone (LH)
  • Low levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG)
  • Raised levels of prolactin.

“The exact reason why these hormonal changes occur is not known,” said the NHS, which is clearly an area of research to be explored.

The condition seems to have a genetic link, as a person’s PCOS risk is higher when a close family member, such as sister or aunt, has the condition.

While there is no cure for the condition (at present), the symptoms can be managed.

For instance, medication can be prescribed to control excessive hair growth.

This could be any of the following medicines:

  • Cyproterone acetate
  • Spironolactone
  • Flutamide
  • Finasteride
  • Combined oral contraceptives.

These medicines work by blocking effects of the male hormone.

Another treatment option is a cream called eflornithine, which can also slow down the growth of unwanted facial hair.

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