If you’re female, and you’re having trouble getting rid of your acne, then you may want to consider whether or not you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
Polycystic means ‘many cysts’ so Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome basically means an enlarged ovary which has many cysts. Having Polycystic Ovaries however is different to having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It only turns into a syndrome (PCOS) when the cysts cause a hormonal imbalance (which will results in symptoms such as acne). Therefore, not all women with ovarian cysts have PCOS.
The statistics of the number of women who have ovarian cysts is surprisingly high. It affects 5 to 10 percent of women during childbearing years. And symptoms can start at any time during those child bearing years.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
Before you consider getting a test done, first consider if you have any of the symptoms of PCOS. If your only symptom is acne then it’s unlikely that you have it. If you’re still unsure, make an appointment with a doctor or your gynecologist and have a chat to them about it.
These are the common symptoms:
- Irregular or absent periods
- Obesity or inability to lose weight
- Excessive body or facial hair (hirsutism)
- Insulin resistance and possibly diabetes
- Thinning of scalp hair
- Velvety, hyperpigmented skin folds (acanthosis nigricans)
- High blood pressure
How do I get a test done?
Before you get a test done for PCOS, you will need to talk to your doctor or gynecologist about it because you will need to get a referral from them to get tested. They will discuss with your whether or not they feel as though it is likely that you have PCOS, and if a test is a good idea.
I had a test done when I got a sudden bout of severe acne last year. PCOS also runs in my family (it can be genetic) so I figured I may be at a high risk of having the syndrome. All I needed to do was ask my doctor for a test and he wrote me a referral.
I found the test to be quite invasive. I had no idea what I was up for when I went off to get my test done. I was told before I went that I had to drink 1.5 liters of water (which is a ton of water) at least half an hour before my appointment. So I turned up with my belly full of water (man was I busting) and no idea what was going to happen. First, they did an external ultra sound, just like when you’re pregnant. They put gel on my abdomen, and then put a camera on they gel so they could see right into my uterus. Next they did an internal examination which involved inserting a camera into me so they can look at my uterus and ovaries from the inside. I know all this sounds really hideous, but it wasn’t that bad and I’m glad I got the test done because mine came up negative which was good to know, so I could cross that possible acne cause off my list.
Treating PCOS acne
Treating PCOS acne is not very different to treating acne in adult women. The syndrome creates a hormonal balance so all you need to do is control the hormones. This can be done by taking the contraceptive pill, but often a high dose is needed and a lot of women don’t want to take the pill or they find that their body rejects it.
You can treat PCOS effectively with natural methods – by eating a low GI diet, exercising and taking supplements. I’ve even see PCOS cookbooks!
There’s also a really great PCOS and acne message board that you might want to log onto if you have any question to ask women who do have the condition.