PCOS Awareness Month: What are the symptoms?

·2-min read

Two-thirds of women are unable to identify the key symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), according to new research.

PCOS, which causes elevated levels of sex hormones, is the most common endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age. The condition affects approximately 13 per cent of women and uteruses globally and, in the long term, can lead to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and uterine cancer.

Despite the frequency of cases, a study commissioned by the team at digital healthcare provider Livi (livi.co.uk) to mark PCOS Awareness Month during September 2021, discovered that many women across the U.K. weren't aware of the PCOS symptoms, and when asked to note the signs, almost half failed to select irregular periods (47 per cent) and around two-thirds didn't pick excessive hair growth and weight gain.

Interestingly, acne was the least well-known PCOS symptom, with four out of five women not acknowledging it as a possible red flag. Other symptoms include irregular periods, long gaps between periods, or no periods.

And millennials were the least likely age group to know what to look for, despite most PCOS diagnoses happening when women are in their 20s or 30s.

For those concerned they may have PCOS, Dr. Elisabeth Rosen, lead GP at Livi and a specialist in gynaecology and obstetrics, advises keeping track of symptoms and your menstrual cycle in a diary so you can share the information with a doctor and potentially speed up a diagnosis.

"Keep track of your symptoms and menstrual cycle to help you spot patterns. You can use a cycle tracker app or a physical diary. A doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and experiences and then refer you for a blood test to check your hormone levels," she commented. "They will also request an ultrasound to check for signs that your ovaries are polycystic."

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