PCOS: Signs and symptoms

PCOS: Signs and symptoms
Written by Dr. Samantha Bowen, ND


Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex condition influenced by metabolic, hormonal, and inflammatory changes within the body. It is one of the most common endocrine disorders amongst women of reproductive age, however, it is widely underdiagnosed and undermanaged.

Although the exact cause is not clear, the development of PCOS is likely due to an interplay between insulin resistance, excess androgens, inflammation, genetics, and other environmental factors. Based on the Rotterdam Criteria, a PCOS diagnosis can be made when 2 of 3 following criteria are met:

  • Polycystic Ovaries (cysts detected on ovaries through ultrasound)
  • Oligoovulation/anovulation (infrequent or absent ovulation)
  • Laboratory or physical signs of elevated androgens (male sex hormones)

PCOS can present differently for each person, but common signs and symptoms include:

  • Irregular or absent periods
  • Acne on face and body
  • Hirsutism (hair growth on face and body)
  • Hair loss on head
  • Infertility
  • Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes

Patients with PCOS are also at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, blood lipid abnormalities, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, depression, and anxiety. This highlights the significance of proper diagnosis and management.

Is it also important to note that PCOS can present similarly to other medical conditions so make sure to work with a health care practitioner to determine the root cause of your symptoms.

Although there is no cure for PCOS, there are effective treatments to help manage this condition.

Depending on which driving factors are at play, your health care practitioner can help decide which evidence-based therapies would be the most appropriate for you. This could include a combination of lifestyle, dietary, supplement, herbal, or medication recommendations.

Individuals living with PCOS shouldn’t feel hopeless. With an appropriate diagnostic workup, effective treatment recommendations can be made to address the underlying factors that drive this condition.

Dr. Samantha Bowen, ND

Dr. Bowen is a licensed naturopathic doctor practicing in the Vancouver area. From a young age, she aspired to work in the field of health and medicine. Growing up on Salt Spring Island, BC, Dr. Bowen developed a strong curiosity to better understand the various factors that influence our health. She truly believes that the path to optimal health is more complex than just treating presenting symptoms. 

She completed a B.Sc. Honours in Health Promotion at Dalhousie University, holds a Certificate in Holistic Nutrition from Pacific Rim College in Victoria, BC, and from there, chose to enrol at the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in order to become a naturopathic doctor.

Dr. Bowen’s approach to medicine is simple - you are unique and you deserve a personalized treatment plan that will work to optimize your health. Her holistic treatment plans are evidence-informed and will be tailored to support your current health needs as well as your long-term goals. Most importantly, Dr. Bowen hopes to create a safe space where patients feel supported and empowered throughout their health journey.

Find Dr Bowen on Instagram

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