Quiz: Is what I'm experiencing PCOS?

Our clinician-designed quiz helps you understand whether or not your symptoms are consistent with PCOS. If they are, we'll guide you towards next steps and make sure you have everything you need to pursue a diagnosis.

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects between 5 to 10% of people with a uterus and ovaries. It is characterized by a combination of symptoms related to menstrual irregularity, excess androgen levels, and occasionally the presence of polycystic ovaries. PCOS is a complex condition with various underlying mechanisms, including insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances, and genetic factors. The exact cause of PCOS is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

The current diagnostic criteria for PCOS include the presence of at least two of the following: irregular menstrual cycles, excess androgen levels or signs of excess androgen (such as acne or excessive hair growth), and polycystic ovaries visualized through ultrasound. However, it's important to note that the diagnostic criteria have evolved over time, and there are ongoing discussions about potential revisions to improve accuracy and inclusivity.

What are the symptoms for PCOS?

PCOS can present with a wide range of symptoms. Some common symptoms of PCOS include:

  1. Menstrual irregularities: People with PCOS may experience infrequent or prolonged menstrual cycles, or they may have no periods at all (amenorrhea).
  2. Excess androgen levels: Elevated levels of androgens can lead to symptoms such as acne, oily skin, and hirsutism (excessive hair growth, often in areas such as the face, chest, or back).
  3. Polycystic ovaries: The presence of enlarged ovaries containing multiple small follicles, which can be seen on ultrasound.
  4. Weight gain or difficulty losing weight: Many people with PCOS struggle with weight management due to underlying insulin resistance and metabolic abnormalities.
  5. Insulin resistance: PCOS is associated with an increased risk of insulin resistance, which can contribute to weight gain, difficulty with losing weight, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

It's important to note that not all people with PCOS will experience the same set of symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can vary widely. Additionally, the symptoms of PCOS can overlap with those of other conditions, making diagnosis challenging and emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive evaluation by a trusted healthcare provider.

Iconic can help you find a doctor with PCOS expertise →

How does medical fatphobia show up in PCOS diagnosis and treatment?

Medical fatphobia refers to the discrimination, bias, and stigmatization of individuals based on their body size or weight within healthcare settings. Unfortunately, medical fatphobia can have a significant impact on the diagnosis and treatment of PCOS. There are several ways in which this bias can manifest:

  1. Weight-centric approach: Many healthcare providers tend to focus primarily on weight loss as the primary treatment goal for PCOS, assuming that weight loss will alleviate all symptoms. This narrow focus on weight reduction can lead to neglecting other important aspects of PCOS management, such as addressing insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances, and mental health concerns.
  2. Inadequate care and support: Individuals with PCOS who are larger-bodied may face additional challenges in accessing appropriate care and support. They may encounter weight bias, negative assumptions about their lifestyle choices, and a lack of resources tailored to their specific needs.
  3. Diagnosis challenges: Healthcare providers may overlook or downplay symptoms of PCOS in individuals who do not fit the stereotypical image of a "typical" PCOS patient. This can result in delayed or missed diagnoses for individuals with PCOS who do not meet the weight-based expectations.

Addressing medical fatphobia in PCOS diagnosis and treatment is crucial for ensuring equitable and inclusive care. It is important for healthcare providers to adopt a size-inclusive approach that focuses on overall health and well-being rather than weight as the sole determinant of health.

Size-inclusive care for PCOS

A size-inclusive approach recognizes and respects the diversity of body sizes and focuses on improving health and well-being rather than treating weight loss as the primary goal. It acknowledges that health can be achieved and maintained at various body sizes and that weight is not the sole determinant of an individual's health status.

Key principles of size-inclusive care for PCOS include:

  1. Well-being > weight loss: Size-inclusive care emphasizes the importance of promoting well-being, healthy behaviors, and positive body image rather than pursuing weight loss. The focus shifts to improving metabolic health, managing symptoms, and enhancing overall quality of life.
  2. Individualized approach: Recognizing that PCOS affects individuals differently, size-inclusive care tailors treatment plans to meet each person's unique needs, considering factors such as symptom severity, medical history, lifestyle, and mental health.
  3. Addressing underlying factors: Size-inclusive care acknowledges the role of various factors contributing to PCOS, such as insulin resistance and hormonal imbalances, and aims to address these underlying issues rather than solely focusing on weight reduction.
  4. Inclusive language and attitudes: Healthcare providers practicing size-inclusive care use inclusive language and demonstrate non-judgmental attitudes toward body size and weight. They avoid stigmatizing language and focus on creating a safe and supportive environment for all patients.
  5. Conscientious prescribing: Some of the medications used to treat PCOS can affect weight. A size-inclusive provider will make sure patients are informed about the effects of all medications including how they may affect weight and make sure there is informed consent before prescribing.

Implementing size-inclusive care for PCOS can improve patient outcomes, increase patient satisfaction, and reduce the harmful effects of weight stigma and bias in healthcare settings.

Building an inclusive care team

Finding inclusive doctors can be daunting, especially when managing conditions like PCOS. Many healthcare providers still adhere to weight-centric approaches, focusing on weight loss as the primary solution, which can disregard the diverse needs and experiences of patients. That’s why we built Iconic. Our care navigation service is designed to connect members with affirming doctors who are aligned with their specific needs. With Iconic, it’s finally possible to find doctors who prioritize holistic health, emphasize well-being over weight, and provide personalized care for conditions like PCOS.

Build your care team with Iconic for only $14.99/month →

4 sources
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  1. Teede, H., Misso, M., Tassone, E., et al. (2018). Recommendations from the international evidence-based guideline for the assessment and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. Human Reproduction, 33(9), 1602-1618.
  2. Tylka, T. L., Annunziato, R. A., Burgard, D., et al. (2014). The weight-inclusive versus weight-normative approach to health: Evaluating the evidence for prioritizing well-being over weight loss. Journal of Obesity, 2014, 983495.
  3. Vandenbroucke, L., Goossens, E., Ongenae, K., et al. (2020). Medical fatphobia in healthcare professionals: A systematic review. Obesity Reviews, 21(5), e12937.
  4. Ramos, D., Mascarenhas, T., & Pereira, A. T. (2021). Moving from weight centric to weight inclusive care for women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 12, 652869.