PCOS involves a cluster of symptoms, which means that individual women can have vastly different experiences with the disorder. Some of them may not even have ovarian cysts, as the name would suggest. To be diagnosed with PCOS, a woman just needs to meet two of the three criteria: high levels of androgens (male sex hormones), lost or irregular periods, and polycystic ovaries.
According to Dr. Shannon Clark, the hallmark physical symptoms of PCOS include weight gain, excess body hair, acne, and loss of head hair. But that's not true for every PCOS case; some women don't have any of the common physical manifestations, yet still experience the internal aspects of the disorder. PCOS is also linked with infertility, and many women with PCOS simultaneously suffer from coexisting metabolic and cardiovascular conditions, like diabetes and hypertension.
"All of this rolled into one can directly affect a woman's sexual function," Dr. Clark said.