Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

(PCOS; Stein Leventhal Syndrome; Polyfollicular Ovarian Appearance; Hyperandrogenic Anovulation; Polycystic Ovarian Disease; PCO; PCOD)

Definition

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormone condition in women. It causes changes in the ovaries, like the growth of small fluid-filled sacs (cysts).

Ovary and Fallopian Tube
Ovarian Cyst

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Causes

The cause is not known. Insulin resistance seems to play a role. It creates high levels of insulin. This causes the ovaries to make too much of a hormone called androgen. This can result in hair growth on the face, acne, and hair loss. It can stop ovulation from happening. It can lead to large ovaries with many cysts.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of PCOS are:

  • Other family members with PCOS
  • Obesity

Symptoms

Some women do not have symptoms. Others may have:

  • Problems getting pregnant
  • Irregular or no menstrual periods
  • Obesity
  • Unwanted hair growth
  • Hair loss from the scalp

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

You may have:

  • An ultrasound to view the ovaries
  • Blood tests to measure glucose, cholesterol, and hormone levels
  • Urine tests to check for pregnancy.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to target insulin resistance. The treatment you have depends on whether you want to become pregnant. Choices are:

  • Medicine to manage problems, such as abnormal hair growth, acne, and insulin resistance
  • Lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight

Prevention

There are no guidelines to prevent this health problem.

RESOURCES:

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association
http://www.pcosupport.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)
http://sogc.org

Women's Health Matters
http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

REFERENCES:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Practice Bulletin No. 194: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Jun;131(6):e157-e171

McCartney CR, Marshall JC. Clinical Practice. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. N Engl J Med. 2016 Jul 7;375(1):54-64.

Polycystic ovary syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/polycystic-ovary-syndrome. Accessed October 19, 2020.

Polycystic ovary syndrome. Family Doctor–American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html. Accessed September 23, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Elliot M. Levine, MD, FACOG  Last Updated: 10/19/2020