PCOS and hypothyroidism have similar symptoms, making it difficult to determine whether you might have one or the other. However, have you considered that you might have both syndromes? Read on, and if any of the following signs match up with your day-to-day experience, see your physician to find out if you have both of these common conditions.
1) You gain weight, and it’s hard to keep it off
One symptom that is very common to both PCOS and hypothyroidism is rapid gains in weight that is subsequently hard to lose. While hypothyroidism can cause weight gain on its own via the low basal metabolic rate that a low functioning thyroid gland has, the presence of disorders like PCOS magnify this symptom, as the high levels of insulin push tons of glucose into adipose cells, as this energy is not burned up by those with a low rate of metabolism (1).
2) Your periods are irregular (sometimes they come, sometimes not)
In women that have either PCOS or hypothyroidism, another common symptom has to do with periods that do not reliably occur during any given month. In women with PCOS, the levels of a hormone known as TSH is often higher than normal, which in turn can cause periods to take a month off every now and again. While this symptom frequently means that women have one of the two disorders, it is also possible that they may have PCOS and hypothyroidism at the same time (2).
3) When you get your periods, it often doesn’t contain an egg
For those that have PCOS, the story behind anovulation is a familiar one: insulin interacts with luteinizing hormone to stop or impair the development of a follicle, leading to the inability of it to produce a viable egg.
In hypothyroidism, the mechanism is different, but it still has ties to PCOS via the high levels of TSH present in both disorders. Excessive amounts of TSH works to release prolactin which then acts to reduce the level of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) dramatically, causing the ovaries to decline to produce an egg much of the time (3).
4) Blood tests show abnormally high levels of insulin and cholesterol
In women with PCOS and hypothyroidism, high levels of cholesterol and insulin are often present, putting them at risk for serious health problems such as heart disease.
Insulin resistance, whether it results from an unlucky genetic inheritance or brought about as an unwelcome side effect from drugs like protease inhibitors, causes your body’s pancreas to squeeze out very high levels of insulin to cope with the fact that your body’s cells are not responding adequately to initial doses of this compound.
High free-circulating levels of insulin go on to do harm that is central to the negative aspects of PCOS and hypothyroidism, making it a symptom that should get you checked for both disorders.
Also, the metabolism of LDL cholesterol is adversely affected in both PCOS and hypothyroidism, leading to increasing levels of the compound responsible for atherosclerosis in the bloodstreams of women suffering from either or both maladies (4).
5) Your hair is thinning
One of the most emotionally trying symptoms is the loss of hair from PCOS or hypothyroidism. The root cause in both cases in androgen, specifically the kind known as DHT. This compound inhibits the growth of hair and can even kill the hair follicle altogether (5).
The question here is: is a malfunctioning thyroid producing the high levels of this compound, or is it being caused by free insulin simulating the ovaries to secrete androgen that are then going on to wreak havoc on the hair of the patient? It could be either … or it could be both in tandem with each other.
6) Hair grows in place where it shouldn’t
In a similar fashion to the above, androgen also causes hair to grow in places where most women generally don’t experience hair growth. This condition is known as hirsutism, with thick, coarse and dark hair sprouting up on the lips, chest, back and other random places.
While androgen often arrests hair growth in follicles in the scalp, it does the opposite elsewhere on the body, and with mechanisms of excessive androgen production being well documented in hypothyroidism and PCOS, it can indicate the presence of either or both syndromes (6).
7) Your uterine tissues bleed at irregular intervals, and heavily
Since it has been established already that those that suffer from either hypothyroidism or PCOS occasionally miss their period, the uterine lining can bleed quite profusely due to a longer period of time between the start of the accumulation of tissue intended to support a pregnancy and the eventual release of this excessive buildup(7).
8) You frequently feel tired
Another symptom that PCOS and hypothyroidism sufferers frequently complain from is chronic fatigue. While those that have hypothyroidism can be tired due to the low basal metabolic rate that their condition saddles them with, this disorder also harbors an association with insulin resistance (8).
It is this aspect that PCOS and hypothyroidism have in common, as those with the former syndrome feel fatigue from the tardy response of the body when it comes to pulling energy from its glucose stores, as do those experiencing the latter medical condition.
9) You suffer breakouts of acne reminiscent of your teenage years
Androgen strikes again! When the mechanisms driving either or both disorders elevate the amount of this hormone in the female body, another unsightly side effect of this occurrence is acne breakouts. Stimulating the oil glands in your skin, they become overactive, increasing the probability and amount of oil that gets clogged, thereby causing an outbreak of the ugly aberrations within your skin complexion (9).
10) You get depressed frequently
According to studies in recent years, insulin resistance has been found to have a strong correlation with those suffering from depression, which isn’t surprising, as the former disorder slowly starves all tissues, cells, and organs of the glucose they need to run properly, including the brain (10).
The free insulin resulting from insulin resistance, as discussed earlier, also damages the ovaries and thyroid gland in a manner that prevents their proper function, so if you are feeling down and display a few of the other symptoms mentioned in this article, see a doctor to determine whether you have PCOS, hypothyroidism, or both PCOS and hypothyroidism.
- American Hair Loss
- Web Med Central