This is not true. No single symptom is enough to provide you with a diagnosis of PCOS. PCOS stands for Polycystic ovary syndrome. The definition of a ‘syndrome’ means that a group of symptoms which consistently occur together, or it is a condition that is characterised by a set of associated symptoms. As PCOS is a syndrome, one sign or symptom (such as irregular periods) is not enough for a diagnosis. To meet the diagnostic criteria of PCOS, women need to have two of the following three criteria:
- irregular periods
- signs of increased levels of androgens (hormones that give “male” characteristics) such as excess hair growth, acne or hair loss
- enlarged ovaries with lots of small follicles containing immature eggs (known as polycystic ovaries)
Research with clinicians has shown that many women are self-diagnosing or incorrectly diagnosing their PCOS based on irregular cycles alone or on an ultrasound showing polycystic ovaries. It’s important to note that not all women with polycystic ovaries will have PCOS. The facial and body hair of women can vary based on different ethnicities. Acne is another symptom that is often linked with PCOS; however, research shows that acne is common in women (~25%) and prevalent across different age groups.
Additionally, there may be other factors/ conditions that can mimic symptoms of PCOS. Some of these include stress, hormonal contraceptives (such as the pill), obesity, thyroid issues (which can affect metabolism), over-exercising, disordered eating and hypothalamic amenorrhea (when periods stop because of stress, excessive weight loss or physical exercise).