Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

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

Definition

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a chronic endocrine disorder in women. With PCOS, the ovaries make the follicles, but the eggs do not mature or leave the ovary. The immature follicles can turn into fluid-filled sacs called cysts.
Ovary and Fallopian Tube
Ovarian Cyst
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

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 from the ovaries. This prevents ovulation and leads to enlarged, polycystic ovaries. Excess androgen is also associated with:
  • Hirsutism—undesired or excess hair growth on face and body
  • Acne

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of PCOS:
  • Family members with PCOS
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Symptoms

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:
  • Infertility
  • Amenorrhea—irregular menstrual periods or no menstrual period
  • Obesity
  • Dark patches of skin on neck, groin, and arm pit
  • Hair loss
Women with PCOS are also at increased risk for:

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