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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

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.

What Causes PCOS?

This hormonal imbalance has no exact known cause, but the problem stems from insulin resistance that results in the overproduction of male hormones (androgens). These androgens prevent ovulation and leads to enlarged, polycystic ovaries. 

Factors that may increase your chances of developing PCOS include:

  • Family members with PCOS
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Symptoms of PCOS

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 armpits
  • Hair loss

If you have PCOS, you may also have an increased risk for:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hyperlipidemia — increased fat and cholesterol in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • Metabolic syndrome 
  • Heart disease
  • Endometrial hyperplasia — a precancerous condition marked by overgrowth and thickening of uterine lining
  • Endometrial cancer

Diagnosis usually includes an ultrasound, as well as blood and urine tests.

PCOS Treatment

Treatment targets the underlying insulin resistance.

Your doctor can help you manage symptoms with lifestyle changes, like:

  • Weight loss (if you're overweight)
  • Healthy eating
  • Exercise

Hormone Therapy

A range of hormone medications can help improve insulin resistance and block unwanted hair growth.

Birth control pills regulate periods, reduce the risk of overgrowth or cancer and control abnormal hair growth and acne.

You may require fertility medications to become pregnant.


Call 434.243.3675.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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