PCOS: When it's More Than Just Bad Acne

PCOS: When it's More Than Just Bad Acne

Keke Palmer, who you might know best for her incredible fashion, or her countless roles in Hollywood, recently opened up about her journey and struggles with PCOS. She posted several vulnerable pictures of herself with no make-up on, and described in the caption her long time struggle with acne. It wasn’t until she looked into her family history though, that she was able to connect the dots and convey to her physicians that there was something more to her story than acne. 

What is PCOS?

PCOS is a common health problem that involves an imbalance of reproductive hormones. These hormonal imbalances can lead to metabolic imbalances which can then go on to affect appearance. This includes weight gain and acne. 

How common is PCOS? 

Relatively common, around 10% of women of reproductive age struggle from PCOS. 

What causes PCOS? Is it hereditary? 

There is likely a hereditary link in PCOS, however, it is likely caused by a variety of environmental and hereditary factors. We aren’t sure what these factors are, but a family history of PCOS is something important to tell your doctor.  

Does PCOS cause other long term health problems? 

In classic or severe forms of PCOS, there is an increased risk for prediabetes and/or diabetes to develop. Weight management and obesity are common issues that women with PCOS may struggle with. However, PCOS is treatable, and treating PCOS may help with weight management issues. 

PCOS is also associated with anxiety, depression and eating disorders. Therefore, even if your symptoms are mild, tell your doctor and get effective treatment. No one should have to live with these mental health issues because they can be treated. 

How can PCOS be diagnosed?

Not everyone has all the classic symptoms or meets all the classic criteria of PCOS, making it harder for some doctors to diagnose it. If you are experiencing some of the classic symptoms discussed below you should consider asking your doctor about PCOS. If you have been experiencing these symptoms for a long time and they have not gotten better despite other treatments, you should let your doctor know. 

Irregular periods

  • Specifically, having less than 8 periods a year or having trouble getting pregnant without medical help.

Excess acne, or hair growth

  • These might be signs of excess of hormones such as testosterone, especially if these symptoms are refractory to other treatments
  • Normal acne vs. acne due to PCOS is usually very resistant to other treatments and very severe - often cystic 
  • Your doctor can test the hormone levels in your blood to see if these symptoms are due to a hormone imbalance

    Hair loss from the head

    • This symptoms is also due to hormone imbalances when seen in patients with PCOS

      Weight gain

      • Not all patients with PCOS have this symptom 

        Is there anything I can do on my own to help with PCOS? 

        Yes! Studies have shown that exercise and weight loss can help with both the symptoms of PCOS and the regulation of menstrual cycles. However, not everyone can control their PCOS with lifestyle changes alone, so do not get discouraged.

        How can Keke’s story help people?

        PCOS is not a very well publicized diagnosis and therefore many women have to see multiple doctors to get an accurate diagnosis. By having a celebrity like KeKe open up about this issue so publicly, it gives it a spotlight. This will hopefully lead to more effective diagnosis for other women in the future. 

        Better diagnoses means better answers for women. When your health is affecting your life, you want explanations. Being able to have a fast and accurate diagnosis can help you understand why you feel a certain way and what is actually going on with your body. Knowing this, can make it easier to deal with. This is why KeKe opening up about her journey is so important and we are grateful for her courage!

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        Disclaimer: This is general medical information and not specific medical advice.  It does not and should not replace diagnosis or treatment by your healthcare provider. If you are seeking personal recommendations, advice, and/or treatment, please consult your physician. If you have an emergency, you should contact 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.