Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Hair Loss

For many women, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an unfortunate reality. Despite the fact that the condition affects about 200,000 women in the United States each year, many people do not know anything about the disorder.

If people do know anything about PCOS, they usually know that it can cause excessive weight gain or acne. But, many do not know that it actually can cause hair loss.

Keep reading below not only learn about PCOS, but also how to recognize its symptoms and its connection to hair loss.

What is PCOS?

PCOS is the result of a reproductive hormonal imbalance in a woman’s body. This hormonal imbalance leads to complications in the ovulation process. For those with PCOS, the egg either does not develop properly or is not released as it should be during ovulation.

These complications in the ovulation process lead to irregular periods. Irregular periods can lead to serious issues, such as infertility and ovarian cysts. 

Symptoms of PCOS

To better combat the negative effects of PCOS, it is important to detect the condition as soon as possible. The following are symptoms of PCOS:

  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Development of ovarian cysts
  • Facial acne
  • Acne on the back
  • Acne on the chest
  • Excessive hair growth on the face and chin
  • Weight gain
  • Darkening of skin along the neck, groin, and underneath breasts
  • Skin tags in the armpit and neck area
  • Hair thinning on the scalp

How does PCOS lead to hair thinning? 

On first glance, PCOS seems to be a walking contradiction when it comes to hair. On one hand, it can lead to excessive hair growth on the chin and face, or places where men typically grow hair. But, it can actually lead to hair thinning on the scalp. How can this be?

The female body produces a male hormone called androgen, and PCOS leads to an overproduction of this hormone. Thus, women with PCOS may deal with appearance issues typically associated with men — such as growth of hair on the chin and the thinning of the scalp. In fact, hair loss in women with PCOS is often referred to as female pattern baldness, the direct counterpart to male pattern baldness.

What to Do

If you begin to recognize symptoms of PCOS, the first thing you should do is reach out to your doctor. If possible, you may want to make an appointment with your gynecologist or, if you have one, an endocrinologist. Your doctor will be able to diagnose you with PCOS based on a series of physical examinations, such as blood tests and pelvic exams.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for PCOS. However, your doctor may be able to prescribe you medications to manage your symptoms. 
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