Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
(PCOS; Stein Leventhal Syndrome; Polyfollicular Ovarian Appearance; Hyperandrogenic Anovulation; Polycystic Ovarian Disease; PCO; PCOD)
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
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).
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.
Things that may raise the risk of PCOS are:
Some women do not have symptoms. Others may have:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
PCOS cannot be cured but treatment may help manage effects. Healthy diet choices and regular exercise can play an important role. It may help to:
A healthy diet includes plenty of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. A dietitian or doctor can help to develop a personalized plan.
Medicine can help to manage some symptoms. Choices may include:
A treatment plan can also be made for those who are having trouble getting pregnant. It will include weight loss if needed, then medication to stimulate ovulation, if needed.
There are no guidelines to prevent this health problem.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)
Women's Health Matters
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:
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Accessed September 23, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 4/27/2021
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