I'm almost 32 and I've had acne off and on since puberty, ranging from mild-cystic, but predominantly cystic. I've ALWAYS had to use medication or herbs to keep my skin clear and I've been on every prescription medication out there. I did 3 courses of Accutane in my late teens and early 20's, and it wasn't until I switched from Ortho Tri Cyclen to Yasmin during my last Accutane course, when I was 21, that I noticed a huge difference in my skin staying clear for a prolonged period of time. Eventually minor tiny papules around my nose came creeping back so I started using Tazorac and Clindamycin gel, which gave me perfectly clear skin. When I moved to California from NYC two years ago I switched from Yasmin to Ocella (the generic), and my acne started coming back. It wasn't severe, but was still very bothersome. I just figured it was my body adjusting to the climate in CA, but now I realize that it was due to switching from brand to generic Yasmin. I ended up stopping the Taz and Clindamycin and used Chinese herbs instead, which gave me pretty good results. In January of 2010 I went off of Yasmin to give my body a break as I had been on BCP's for 16 years. This was a terrible idea because I soon started breaking out in places I never had before including my back and jawline. I cleared up my back through cupping (Chinese Medicine), but my face progressively got worse and exploded all over with cystic/nodular acne about 6 months after stopping the BCP. I spiraled into a deep depression because I couldn't believe I was dealing with cysts and nodules yet again at the age of 32. I had my hormones checked by my PCP and the only thing that came back abnormal was that my testosterone was slightly elevated. She said this shouldn't be affecting my skin because, in her opinion, it was such a minimal elevation. I went to numerous dermatologists trying to figure out what was going on with my skin and nobody would take the time to listen to me. Many people were saying "it's hormonal", and my response was OF COURSE it's hormonal, but what is the root cause of my hormones being whacked out? I had a gut feeing it was something more than simply stopping the BCP. I wasn't happy with the lack of answers and concern I was getting from any of the doctors and the acne started taking me back to an emotionally vulnerable and helpless place like the cyst-ridden teenager I once was. My intuition told me to keep searching until I found answers. Last week I went back to my PCP and asked, "Do you think there's any chance I have PCOS?" She said no. I decided to seek out an excellent OB/GYN, and going to her was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life--in fact it was life changing. She immediately diagnosed me with PCOS based on my irregular, 38-day, menstrual cycle ( FYI--I get my period on the same day every cycle, so it didn't necessarily seem irregular to me, just lengthy), acne, and elevated testosterone. We confirmed the diagnosis with an ultrasound, which revealed numerous immature follicles on my ovaries. She also performed another hormone test that was more comprehensive than the one my PCP gave me.
One of the things I want to point out here is that I don't fit the classic stereotype of the PCOS woman. I am very thin (5'6"/110 lbs) and always have been. I don't have any out-of-control facial or body hair (just a few minor black hairs on my chin), and I don't have thinning hair on my head. What I do have is persistent acne and slightly elevated testosterone. My OB/GYN said there are many misconceptions about PCOS, the primary one being that if you don't fit the classic PCOS stereotype then you don't have PCOS. She said she has many patients with PCOS who are thin and have irregular periods and that is their ONLY symptom. Thus, many people with PCOS who are thin live their lives not knowing they have it until they try to conceive.
So, FINALLY, after 18 years of wondering why I have had such persistent acne I have an answer. I was overwhelmed by a variety of emotions ranging from joy in knowing what the cause of my acne is to anger that so many doctors would not listen to me and take my concerns seriously, as I was generically classified as just another woman with "hormonal acne" after stopping the BCP.
I feel so liberated and powerful knowing the root cause, and instead of hiding from my acne I am OWNING my acne. As soon as I got my diagnosis a couple days ago, I immediately went from being totally devastated and desperate by my acne situation to finding peace of mind from being informed about my condition. Yes, acne completely sucks, but I have found so much relief this past week and am looking at my acne from a completely different perspective now that it is no longer a great mystery as to why I frustratingly have dealt with it since puberty. I now know I have a disorder that causes my acne and there is nothing that *I* am doing that causes it. These are simply the cards I have been dealt in life. What I CAN do is take the appropriate steps to manage my PCOS and try to regain balance in my hormones. My OB/GYN put me in contact with a great dermatologist who thoroughly listened to my history and came up with a plan of action to try and get my acne back under control. I am hopeful that my skin will become acne free once again.
Edited by bluekit, 14 August 2010 - 03:41 PM.