Getting diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can be tricky and confusing because it is not something that women expect. Unlike other diseases, identifying PCOS is extremely difficult because there is not any distinctive sign of it. However, most doctors agree that excessive hair growth is much likely to be a symptom of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Those who don’t know, PCOS is a disease that only affects women. According to the doctors, the main reason behind developing cysts in your ovaries is a change in reproductive hormones. When there is a hormonal imbalance, the patient is unable to release an egg monthly, which is otherwise normal during a menstrual cycle if there is no underlying condition.
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It is hard to identify PCOS by yourself because most of its symptoms are associated with a number of other conditions. Some characteristic symptoms of the polycystic ovarian syndrome are as follows.
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Thinning of hair
- Bald spots on the head
- Excessive hair growth on the body
- Unexplained weight gain
- The appearance of skin tags
- Skin darkening
Although these symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) appear differently in every patient most of them experience any or all the above-listed signs.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) estimates that every seven out of ten PCOS patients experience excessive hair growth on the face and body. But it is also normal to have facial and body hair and having these hairs doesn’t necessarily mean that you have PCOS. It is necessary to understand how hair growth in PCOS is different than normal hair growth.
Clinicians characterize polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) to be a common condition caused by abnormal levels of a hormone called androgen. This hormone can perform a number of other manifestations as well that includes acne and facial hair growth.
The abundance of androgen hormones promotes excessive hair growth which is why almost all PCOS patients experience visibly dark, thick, and abundant hair growth.
The normal facial hairs are somewhat thinner and lighter. But androgen stimulated hair appears to be dark and thick called terminal hair. These terminal hair are similar to the scalp, genital and underarms hair. So, does that mean all dark hair on the chin or cheeks are a symptom of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?
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Of course not. Dr. Jessica Shepherd, a consultant ob-gyn from Texas says that there are many other factors that could increase hair production. For example;
- Cushing’s syndrome– when the body produces high amounts of another hormone, cortisol, because of the exposure to certain medicines, it results in excessive hair growth.
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia– This is a genetic condition where the body has an irregularity in steroid hormones production, resulting in hair growth.
- Exposure to certain medicines- some medicines such as Minoxidil can trigger hair growth.
- Tumor growth- although it is rare having a tumor in the ovaries or a tumor in adrenal glands can also result in excessive hair growth.
If a woman suspects having PCOS, the best is to talk to a doctor and get herself evaluated. Based on pelvic exam, ultrasound, and blood tests, a doctor can identify the cause of excessive hair growth.