Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a metabolic-system-meets-hormonal-system condition, which occurs as frequently as 1 in 10 women of reproductive age.
Even though PCOS begins early in life, with roots of the condition tracing back to uterine life, prenatal health and family history of diabetes or PCOS itself, many of the symptoms do not present themselves until women are in their teens, at which point much of the insulin, weight and metabolism challenges have already become well established1.
We have challenges diagnosing women in their teens, and many women struggle with unusual hormone symptoms for years (or are treated with an oral contraceptive to “bring on” their period) and are only properly assessed when they enter a fertility clinic after being unsuccessful at getting pregnant on their own.
Some of the challenges we face with assessing teens, is that many of the “common” experiences in adolescence are also part of the symptom picture of PCOS, and can prevent early diagnosis. Other tests we use to assess PCOS (such as an ovarian ultrasound)2 are not as sensitive in younger women, and should either be avoided, or interpreted with a grain of salt.
Young women with PCOS may experience treatment-resistant acne (even Acutane or antibiotics won’t help)2, experience hair loss on their head, or unwanted hair growth on their face2. Young women with PCOS may experience rapid weight gain compared to their peers, owing to the insulin challenges this condition creates. Studies also show that young women with PCOS are at much higher rates of mental illness, and should be screened carefully by their practitioner3.
Our info-graphic can help you compare the common or ‘typical’ teen health experience with PCOS, but a true assessment of PCOS in teens requires a complete health history and physical exam, as well as lab work to test fasting insulin, glucose and testosterone. An experienced practitioner can help devise a plan to restore a regular menstrual cycle, decrease acne and hair growth, and to help with weight management in these crucial hormonal years.
- de Melo, A. S. et al. Pathogenesis of polycystic ovary syndrome: multifactorial assessment from the foetal stage to menopause. Reprod. Camb. Engl. 150, R11-24 (2015).
- Goodman, N. F. et al. AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF CLINICAL ENDOCRINOLOGISTS, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF ENDOCRINOLOGY, AND ANDROGEN EXCESS AND PCOS SOCIETY DISEASE STATE CLINICAL REVIEW: GUIDE TO THE BEST PRACTICES IN THE EVALUATION AND TREATMENT OF POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME – PART 2. Endocr. Pract. Off. J. Am. Coll. Endocrinol. Am. Assoc. Clin. Endocrinol. 21, 1415–1426 (2015).
- Sadeeqa, S., Mustafa, T. & Latif, S. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome–Related Depression in Adolescent Girls: A Review. J. Pharm. Bioallied Sci. 10, 55–59 (2018).