PCOS and heavy periods : Irregular menses are usually a symptom of a hormonal imbalance. A perfect menstrual cycle is 28 days long. So, if someone gets their period on the 29th day, it is a sign of having a healthy menstrual cycle. But if you get your period for 21 days or earlier and your period lasts for more than 7 days, then you have an irregular menstrual cycle. Also, if you get or miss a late period, you still have an abnormal menstrual cycle.
woman’s body requires a wide range of hormones to function properly. When the levels remain balanced, all of our systems hum along efficiently. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much for this delicate system to get thrown out of sync, especially when it comes to the regulation of menstruation.
One common hormone disorder impacting women during their reproductive years is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Unfortunately, studies show that despite their symptoms, up to 70% of women with PCOS don’t realize they have this condition.
If the following symptoms sound familiar, you should schedule an appointment with us at Sonoran Endocrinology.
Heavy or irregular periods
When you have PCOS, you have a hormonal imbalance that affects your ovaries. During a healthy menstrual cycle, your ovaries make and release an egg each month. When you have PCOS, the egg may not develop properly or be released as it should.
As a result, the most common signs of PCOS often include:
- Missed or fewer periods (less than eight a year)
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Very light periods
This condition can also cause infertility. Of women who experience problems becoming pregnant, 1 in 5 has PCOS.
Of all the PCOS symptoms, pelvic pain is one of the least common. However, this condition can cause ovarian cysts, which can lead to pain in the pelvis.
When you have an ovarian cyst, the pain can be constant, or it may come and go. The sensations can feel like a dull ache or intense jolts in the lower belly.
Other causes of pelvic pain could include endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or ovulation.
One symptom affecting up to 70% of women with PCOS is unwanted hair growth in areas where men grow hair, like the chin, face, chest, stomach, and back. This symptom, known as hirsutism, occurs because PCOS causes your body to produce extra male hormones, which triggers the unwanted hair growth.
In addition to unwanted hair growth where you don’t want it, PCOS can also lead to thinning hair or hair loss on the scalp.
Excess male hormones can lead to a wide range of skin issues, from acne on the face, chest, and upper back to dark patches of skin.
Acne caused by PCOS usually doesn’t respond to cleansing treatments, but therapies like birth control that rebalances your hormones often help.
This skin issue, called acanthosis nigricans, causes areas of dark, velvety, or patchy-looking skin. These areas are most common under the breasts, in the groin or armpits, or at the back of the neck.
So, while having heavy periods and pelvic pain could be due to PCOS, seeing a specialist is the only way to know for sure.
During your appointment, Dr. Dwivedi discusses your symptoms and performs a physical exam. If he suspects a hormone-related disorder, he also runs blood tests. PCOS is sometimes mistaken for thyroid disease and can increase your chances of developing diabetes, so it’s essential to find an expert in endocrinology disorders, like Dr. Dwivedi.
While there isn’t a cure for PCOS, Dr. Dwivedi can help you manage your symptoms. Your treatment options can vary, depending on the severity of your symptoms, overall health, age, and reproductive goals. However, common therapies for PCOS include lifestyle changes and hormone therapy.
Wondering if a hormone disorder is causing your symptoms? Contact one of our Sonoran Endocrinology offices in Surprise, Gilbert, Lake Havasu City, and Prescott, Arizona, today. Just give us a call or click the “book online” button to get started.
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When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you have concerns about your menstrual periods, if you’re experiencing infertility or if you have signs of excess androgen such as worsening hirsutism, acne and male-pattern baldness.
The exact cause of PCOS isn’t known. Factors that might play a role include:
- Excess insulin. Insulin is the hormone produced in the pancreas that allows cells to use sugar, your body’s primary energy supply. If your cells become resistant to the action of insulin, then your blood sugar levels can rise and your body might produce more insulin. Excess insulin might increase androgen production, causing difficulty with ovulation.
- Low-grade inflammation. This term is used to describe white blood cells’ production of substances to fight infection. Research has shown that women with PCOS have a type of low-grade inflammation that stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens, which can lead to heart and blood vessel problems.
- Heredity. Research suggests that certain genes might be linked to PCOS.
- Excess androgen. The ovaries produce abnormally high levels of androgen, resulting in hirsutism and acne.
Complications of PCOS can include:
- Gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
- Miscarriage or premature birth
- Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis — a severe liver inflammation caused by fat accumulation in the liver
- Metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels that significantly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes
- Sleep apnea
- Depression, anxiety and eating disorders
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Cancer of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer)
Obesity is associated with PCOS and can worsen complications of the disorder.