Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

What is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance that causes problems in the ovaries. It causes missed or irregular periods, which can lead to infertility due to excessive cysts on the ovaries and diabetes. Additional symptoms include:

  • Excessive hair growth on the face and chin
  • Acne on the face, chest and upper back
  • Hair loss on the scalp
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Dark spots of the skin

The cause of PCOS is unknown, but it can happen any time after puberty and affects women of all races and ethnicities. Genetics may play a role and having a family member with PCOS may increase your risk as well as being obese.

PCOS may be diagnosed based on your symptoms as well as through a physical exam, a pelvic exam, an ultrasound and blood tests to check hormone and insulin levels.

Although there is no cure, you and your doctor can come up with a plan to manage PCOS that may involve medication and lifestyle changes to minimize symptoms.