Keke Palmer Reveals She Has PCOS—and She Had to Fight for a Diagnosis

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In a series of unfiltered selfies, Keke Palmer showed her bare skin with pimples and acne scars—and revealed that polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the likely cause. But Palmer also said that it was challenging for her to get doctors to take her PCOS symptoms seriously, and she had to be her own advocate to get a proper diagnosis.

The condition “has been attacking me from the inside out my entire life and I had no idea,” Palmer wrote in the Instagram caption, explaining that her acne has been severe for a long time now—and that she had tried pretty much everything to treat it. That includes prescription medications, drinking more water, and changing her diet. But even then, she said, doctors didn’t suggest that PCOS may be the underlying issue.

“It took ME taking a personal look into my family that has a history of diabetes and obesity, to understand what was ACTUALLY happening with me. And unfortunately doctors are people and if you don’t ‘look the part’ they may not think that’s your problem,” she wrote. “They may not even suggest it if you ‘look healthy’ whatever that means! I came to a doctor in tears once and all they offered was a measles vaccine… Exactly.”

“I’m posting this to say that it’s okay and we can help ourselves,” Palmer wrote. “I do not have a medical degree but I did the research and took what I learned to a doctor and that led them to a proper diagnosis. I’m not saying trust WebMD for everything haha but what I am saying is no one can help us like we can help ourselves.”

PCOS is a condition in which hormone levels get thrown out of whack, basically. And when the normal balance of estrogen, progesterone, and androgens (such as testosterone) is disrupted, this can cause symptoms such as irregular periods, acne, excess facial hair, hair loss, and fertility issues. It’s not totally clear what causes those hormonal shifts, but experts suspect there are multiple factors that interact with each other to contribute to those symptoms. Experts are also increasingly understanding that PCOS often has a metabolic link as well, and that it’s often connected to weight gain and diabetes.

For many people, getting a proper PCOS diagnosis can be a challenge. Not everyone with the condition has all of its characteristic symptoms (like irregular periods), and experts are still trying to understand all the many ways it can manifest, so doctors may not think to test for it. The medical establishment also has a long history of dismissing or overlooking the symptoms of poorly understood reproductive health disorders, like PCOS and endometriosis, especially among women of color. So many people, like Palmer, end up taking on the extra work of researching and understanding their health before doctors take them seriously.

“This especially makes me sad because my family struggled for years and no doctor could help them, they actually mislead them and just took their money,” Palmer wrote, acknowledging that “it’s only because of what my family sacrificed” that she has the resources to share this information with her followers. “To all the people struggling with this please know you’re not alone and that you are still so fucking fine! MY ACNE AINT NEVER STOPPED ME,” Palmer said. “Pray for me on this journey and I will pray for you too. I’m not afraid to show myself to the world and you shouldn’t be either.”

Related:

  • Keke Palmer on Candles, Journaling, and Watching Memes Before Bed

  • Why Is PCOS Still So Hard for Doctors to Understand?

  • Can Diet and Exercise Actually Improve PCOS Symptoms?

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