What are the chances that your acne is linked to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?  The last thing you probably want to hear is that your acne could be a sign of a much bigger problem.  The good news is that knowledge is power.  Keep PCOS from spiraling out of control by taking action today.

You can start by checking your family tree.  A family history of PCOS is pretty common.  If someone in your family has it, you may have a stronger chance of developing it yourself.  The sooner you know, the better you’re able to manage it.  Women all over the U.S., can testify to that.

The National Institutes of Health Office of Disease Prevention reports that in the U.S., PCOS affects approximately 5 million women of childbearing age. Research indicates that among females 18-44 years old, 5% to 10% are affected by PCOS.  It has now become the most common endocrine abnormality among women of reproductive age in North America.  With millions of women suffering from this affliction, it is no surprise that it costs approximately $4 billion per year to identify and manage PCOS.


What exactly is PCOS?  It is a complex condition which was first reported in 1935.  It’s described as an enlarged ovary full of cysts.  These cysts take the form of follicles filled with liquid sacs full of developed ovum.  Ovum is just a fancy word for a developing egg.  Under normal conditions an ovum or egg is naturally released each month during a female’s reproduction cycle.

How do you know if you have it?  Symptoms of PCOS may include:

  • obesity
  • acne
  • irregular periods
  • excessive hair growth
  • infertility

Doctors haven’t found the cause of PCOS.  We at least know that it has been linked to insulin resistance and obesity.  Insulin plays a vital role in helping to manage the way ovaries work.  When too much insulin is present, ovaries start popping out androgens.  They’re generous too.  Ovaries throw androgens into the body like people on a float throw beads into a crowd at Mardi Gras.

Unfortunately, all this generosity can lead to a process called anovulation. Anovulation happens when ovaries don’t release an oocyte during a menstrual cycle.  No oocyte equals no ovulation.  This is where irregular menstrual cycles, hormonal acne, and infertility come into play.  So you see, excess insulin leads to more androgens and an imbalance of androgens leads to acne.  This is definitely not a case of “the more the merrier.”  Since the diet has a big influence on insulin, it’s worth taking a look at what foods could trigger excess insulin.  Food that raises blood sugar and insulin levels include:

  • white flour based products
  • sugary foods and drinks
  • refined/processed food


So we know the importance of staying away from junk food, but what about the kind of food we’ve been told is good for us?  How many times have you heard that milk is good for you and you need to drink it so you’ll have strong bones?  Well, it turns out that milk may not be so good for you after all.

In 2013, a descriptive cross-sectional study tried to find the relationship between the amount of dairy consumption and PCOS in 400 women who referred to the Shahid Beheshti hospital clinic.   Initially, it was found that dairy consumption was not significantly correlated with PCOS. However, after adjusting for confounders, research concluded there was a significant direct relationship between milk intake and the risk of PCOS. Specifically, every 1-unit increase in milk intake led to a 1% increase in PCOS risk factors.

Research suggests it is the substance soluble in the fatty acids of dairy products that may impact ovary function.  According to Adebamowo et al., there is a link between slim/low-fat or free-fat milk and an increase in acne breakouts.  Eating low-fat dairy products may increase the level of insulin like growth factor I (IGF-I).  As you may remember, increased insulin leads to excess androgens which leads to acne.


If you think you might have PCOS, see a doctor.  He or she can perform the following tests to determine if you have PCOS:

  • a complete medical history
  • physical examination
  • blood tests
  • pelvic ultrasound

A medical history and physical examination give your doctor important information about skin changes, weight gain, elevated blood pressure, menstrual irregularities, and even male-pattern hair growth.  After blood is drawn, your hormone, glucose, and lipid levels will be evaluated.  Lastly, a pelvic ultrasound is performed to scan for ovarian cysts.  Before a diagnosis of PCOS is confirmed, other conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome, adrenal hyperplasia, and hyperprolactinemia should be ruled out.


The aim in treating PCOS has been to reduce insulin levels and ovarian androgen production.  For those struggling with obesity, weight loss helps to decrease androgen, luteinizing hormone (LH), and insulin levels. It also helps to regulate ovulation which supports menstrual regularities.  Some doctors prescribe antiandrogens to reduce the signs of acne and hirsutism by lowering androgen levels.  Antiandrogens include: Spironolactone (Aldactone, Pfizer), flutamide (Eulexin, Schering/Merck), and finasteride (Propecia, Merck).

Spironolactone, at a dose of 25-100 mg twice daily, is the most frequently used antiandrogen.  It is a popular option because of its reported safety, availability, and low cost.  It does increase the risk of birth defects to the male fetus.  Contraception is therefore highly recommended for patients who are using antiandrogens to treat PCOS.

Outpatient surgery is also available in the form of laparoscopic ovarian drilling.  If you’re getting images of doctors in white coats drilling over your body like a construction crew breaking down cement, think again sis.  Here’s the rundown.  A doctor makes a small cut in the abdomen.  Next, a tube is used to inflate the abdomen with a small amount of carbon dioxide gas so the laparoscope can be inserted without harming any organs.

The doctor can now look at your organs through the laparoscope and begin to make more small cuts.  Not to worry, general anesthesia is used. This process is believed to destroy androgen-producing tissue.  As a result, there should be a decrease in androgen levels. Laparoscopic ovarian drilling has been found to be as effective as medical interventions.  It also doesn’t increase the risk of multiple pregnancies.


Birth control pills not only lower libido, but they just might have long-term risks that are associated with synthetic hormones. Laparoscopic ovarian drilling comes with its own risks such as infection, bleeding, scarring, and pain after the procedure.  Before popping pills or signing up to go under the knife, why not try altering your diet by removing dairy, sugar, and white flour based products?  Even if your PCOS doesn’t go away, you will be healthier and your skin will look a lot better, and who doesn’t want that?

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is provided as an information resource only.  It is not to be used or relied upon for any treatment or diagnostic purposes.  This information is not intended to be patient education.  It should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.  The statements on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.   This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  Please consult your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition, such as if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a mental condition.  Please read all product packaging carefully and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, supplementation or medication program. Cosmetic products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.

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Golnaz Rajaeieh, Mohamadreza Marasi, Zahra Shahshahan, Fatemmeh Hassanbeigi, and Seied Morteza Safavi, “The Relationship between Intake of Dairy Products and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in Women Who Referred to Isfahan University of Medical Science Clinics in 2013,”Int J Prev Med. 2014 Jun; 5(6): 687–694, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4085920/

Uche Anadu Ndefo, PharmD, BCPS, Angie Eaton, PharmD, and Monica Robinson Green, PharmD, BCPS, BCACP, “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – A Review of Treatment Options With a Focus on Pharmacological Approaches,” P. T. 2013 Jun; 38(6): 336-338, 348, 355, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3737989/