A common hormonal condition among women, polycystic ovarian syndrome often causes a variety of skin conditions as well that we see in our office. Since September is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Awareness Month, we’re talking about ways to recognize PCOS signs, and get treatment for related skin problems.
Between 5 and 10 percent of women of childbearing age suffer with PCOS, sometimes also called PCOD, or polycystic ovarian disorder.
Symptoms can range from a bad case of acne to ovarian cysts, and the condition often is associated with infertility in women. It’s caused by reproductive hormone imbalance, when androgens become higher than usual and begin to disrupt the menstrual cycle and reproductive processes. The causes of that imbalance aren’t clear, but the condition affects an increasing number of women in the United States. It can affect women of any race or ethnicity, and if you have family members with the condition, or if you are obese, you are likely to be at higher risk.
If you have or think you may have PCOS, there are good treatments available, and we often work with primary care physicians and other doctors to provide coordinated care for the skin problems that affect PCOS patients.
Skin and hair problems that may occur with PCOS include:
- Skin tags. Small tags or flaps of extra skin on the neck, chest or in the armpit area.
- Acne. Persistent or otherwise unexplained acne on the face, chest and upper back is often seen in PCOS patients as their bodies deal with hormone fluctuations.
- Acanthosis nigricans. This shows up as darkening of the skin, particularly along neck creases, in the groin, and underneath the breasts.
- This is marked by too much hair on the face, chin, or parts of the body where men usually have hair, such as the chest or back. This affects up to 70 percent of women with PCOS.
- Thinning hair or hair loss. This is seen in women with PCOS on the scalp, and sometimes follows indications of male-pattern baldness.
- Oily skin, with or without acne.
Hormone or immune-related conditions like hives or psoriasis also can affect some PCOS patients. Other signs of PCOS include weight gain or difficulty losing weight, and high levels of insulin or insulin resistance. But often, these in conjunction with one or more of the above skin or hair conditions is what prompts sufferers to finally identify their condition and seek appropriate treatment.
There are a few prescription treatments that can help many of these symptoms, such as birth control pills or other hormone-based treatments to control and even out hormone production. We also use a medication called spironolactone to help with the skin symptoms of PCOS. Dr. Jeannette Hudgens and our team at Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center also have several treatment options for acne, skin tags, and hyperpigmentation that can address any of those issues you may be facing.
To learn more about how our experienced dermatological staff can help you deal with PCOS symptoms, contact us anytime for a consultation. We always welcome new patients at our Windermere, Florida offices.