Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a chronic endocrine disorder in women. With PCOS, the ovaries make follicles, but the follicles do not mature and release a mature egg each month as they should. The immature follicles can turn into fluid-filled sacs called
Ovary and Fallopian Tube
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The cause is not exactly known. Genes may play a role. The problem appears related to insulin resistance that creates high levels of insulin. These high insulin levels cause too much androgen to be made by the ovaries. More androgen than normal can increase the presence of some masculine features. It also prevents ovulation and leads to enlarged, polycystic ovaries. Other features may include: Hirsutism—undesired or excess hair growth on the face and body
Factors that may increase your chance of PCOS: Family members with PCOSIrregular menstrual cyclesObesitySedentary lifestyle
Some women may not have symptoms. In others, they may appear between the ages of 15-30 years. In women who have symptoms, PCOS may cause: InfertilityAmenorrhea—irregular menstrual periods or no menstrual period
ObesityDark, thickened patches of skin on the neck, groin, and armpit areasHair loss from the scalp
Women with PCOS are also at increased risk for: Type 2 diabetesHigh cholesterolHigh blood pressureMetabolic syndrome—A condition marked by elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and body weight. Excess weight centered around the midsection is of particular concern.Heart diseaseEndometrial hyperplasia—A precancerous condition marked by overgrowth and thickening of the uterine lining because of infrequent periods.Endometrial cancer
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. An ultrasound may be done to look for multiple cysts on the ovaries.
Urine and blood tests may be done to look for potential causes or check for pregnancy.
Treatment differs according to whether you want to conceive or not. The goal of treatment is to target the underlying insulin resistance that accompanies PCOS.
Other treatment steps may include: Managing symptomsWeight loss if overweightHealthy eatingExerciseMedications to improve insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and prediabetes managementOral contraceptive
Inducing ovulation (if you want to get pregnant)
with: Metformin or clomiphene citrateAdvanced reproductive technologiesPreventing complications
Anti-androgenic medications for blocking hirsutism
Birth control pills
regulate periods. Also, by causing the uterine lining to shed regularly, they reduce the risk of overgrowth or cancer. They also control abnormal hair growth and acne by suppressing androgen. Fertility drugs may be given to stimulate ovulation when a woman with PCOS is ready to become pregnant.
There are no current guidelines to prevent PCOS.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)
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http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html. Updated April 2014. Accessed June 6, 2016.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Endocrine Society Hormone Health Network website. Available at:
http://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/womens-health/polycystic-ovary-syndrome. Updated May 2013. Accessed June 6, 2016.
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Last reviewed June 2016 by James Cornell, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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