Is Your Acne Caused By Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

Is Your Acne Caused By Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

pcos-cookbook.jpgIf 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
  • Infertility
  • Acne
  • 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.


18 comments… add one

  • Alanda

    Fran- I had an overactive sympathetic nervous system (stressed all the time, needlessly) and this induced PCOS symptoms, except for the cysts. I am now on bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, because my hormones are very unbalanced. I haven’t had my cycle in over 6 months, since I stopped taking birth control and… my skin is awful. Does this sound like what you went though? if so, did you try bhrt?

  • Sonia

    Hi Fran,
    I have been dealing with hormonal acne for about 2 years now. Although it has subsided quite a lot, I now tend to get lots of little pimples everywhere on my face. I have had a blood test and I have ovarian cysts, with the androgens being higher than needed. Could I consider taking Estroblock for my skin? Or are there any other supplements? I have taken a chinese herb before but it didnt produce any results. I am a vegetarian with a good diet and have just started to get back into exercise.
    Really appreciate your response, best regards :)

    • Sonia – I’m running a webinar next month about healing acne in adult women, and most of what I’ll be talking about is hormonal acne .. so look out for that. It will be advertised in a week or two x

  • Hi,I m 26 years old i m suffering PCOS disorder from 5 to 6 period is twice or thrice a month im very serious about that problem.I m also suffering from acne problemi m very serious about my feture .can u suggest me how i will solve this problem?

  • krissy

    im 21yrs old and have been worried about my pco disorder for a while. i may only get my period twice a year and have acne and some excess hair growth.

    the acne is probably the most problem that gets me down but i also worry about the insides and why im so irregular especially if i plan on have children in the future.

    i am on medication from my local GP now but nothing seems to be working. I plan on going to a specialist on PCOS but not sure who to see..

    any suggestions pls????

  • Cathy

    Did anyone ever get tested to find out that there testosterone levels and dhea levels were high. Mine came out high but the doctors said I didnt have PCOS because everything is super regular (other than acne) and I went for an ultrasound which came out fine. My homeopath said it was because my adrenal glands were making too much of those hormones due to stress. This answer seems more reasonable. Am working on how to decrease stress now and restore my adrenals so we shall see.

  • Georgia

    Hi Fran,
    Im 13 and im pretty sure its hormones that are causing my acne. Does this mean there is something wrong with my hormones? Do i need to get a test or anything? Or can hormones just cause acne in teenage years ?
    Thanks georgia.

  • Jaykee

    I’m glad you mention that there are natural ways to treating PCOS. About 2 years ago I was diagnosed with PCOS and was put on birth control pills. I hated it, instead of not having periods, I was getting it twice a month. I didn’t see a change in my acne, weight, or sugar levels either. Eventually, I told my doctor I was not going to take the pill anymore and started exercising, eating more organic foods, and taking vitamins. Now, I lost 30 pounds, my sugar level is normal, I get my period at least every 2 months and my face is almost clear (I have to give credit to my skin care routine, too, on that one). While I agree that the pill can help some people, it’s definitely not for everyone.

  • Kylie

    Hi Fran

    I may need to take that test, god I dont wanna but would like to rule it out.

    As for the invasive Ultrasound, was it a woman or man that did the Ultrasound on you?

    Thanks Fran

  • Hi Jennifer, ask your doctor, and if you don’t give you a good answer find another doctor and ask again. My two elder sisters had both endometriosis and endometrioma cysts, and they had to go to many different doctors to get a proper diagnosis.

  • jennifer

    my doctor sent me for an ultrasound because she suspected that i had cysts on my ovaries. she knows that i am trying to conceive for 2 years and that my periods are irregular. they did find several cysts on both of my ovaries. but she didnt mention anything about polycystic ovarian syndrome nor did she tell me what type of cysts i had. does this mean that i do not have pcos or should i insist on being tested?

  • Hi Rachel, if your doctors have suspected then they should give you a test. It’s best to know. I was positive that I had it, but the test came back negative.

    If you do happen to have PCOS, there are things you can do to balance your hormones and help get rid of your acne. This is a great site and forum for PCOS sufferers:

    But please don’t worry about it until you get a test done.

  • Rachel

    I havent been formally diagnosed with PCOS as of it, but doctors have suspected my symptoms to be it. Can anyone tell me about what they go through, does your skin ever clear????

  • Kellyn

    Hey there,
    i was just wondering if theres any other teens out there that has PCOD? If so, please send me an e mail..
    Thanks a lot…

  • Corinne

    Hi, Great site – thanks for putting this info out for everyone :-)

    I just wanted to add my something about PCOS. I have suffered with PCOS for over 5 years now and have to take the contraceptive pill to control it. Sadly it cannot be cured, just controlled. Its not just acne, there is often weight gain, excess hair face/back/body, insulin resistance and infertility. I have all of the above. It is fairly miserable and my skin was bad for a long time but i found that DHC cleansing oil was very impressive. (Not that i am trying to advertise it but it helped me a lot!)Also I now use Rosehip seed oil for a moisturiser.
    The thing I found was that by eating non refined carbs and keeping blood sugar regular, at least some of the symptoms eased. My skin will never be completely acne free (i get breakouts that come and go) but if you can control it to some degree, its a start! Hope that helps :-)

  • bec

    I’ve got this, i was diagnosed early last year, just some advice for other girls (teens like me) it’s not normal to have absent or highly irregualr periods at out age! i suggest if you are experiencing these problems you see a dr you can trust straight away, it’s better if you treat it quiclkly,
    if anyone has any questions i’d be happy to anwser

  • The fundamental problem with PCOS is not making progesterone for two weeks every cycle. This lack of progesterone leads to an imbalance in the ovary, causes the stimulation of higher male hormones and leads to the irregular periods and trouble getting pregnant. Progesterone is usually missing—replacing it therefore makes sense.

    To read more, click here:

    Understanding PCOS the Hidden Epidemic

  • Jasmin


    Just an added note from my personal experiences over the last 5yrs or so:
    If your pelvic ultrasound does show ovarian cysts, this does not necessarily mean you have PCOS. A pelvic ultrasound could reveal a number of types of cysts. Some the same as those seen in women with PCOS or other types like those linked to endometriosis.
    Ovarian cysts are one of a number of symptoms of PCOS. Your doctor can order a cycle day 3 blood test to deterime whether you are producing excess male hormones to help determine whether you have PCOS (again only one of a number of symptoms).

    It is my personal opinion that female problems like ovarian cysts and endometriosis can cause hormone fluctuations that could then cause acne.

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