Ovaries make follicles that hold eggs. 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
. Most women with PCOS have cysts. But women with ovarian cysts do not necessarily have PCOS.
The cause is unknown. Genes may play a role. The problem might be related to insulin resistance with high levels of insulin. These high insulin levels cause too much androgen from the ovaries. This prevents ovulation and leads to enlarged, polycystic ovaries.
These factors increase your chance of developing PCOS. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
Family members with PCOS
Age at onset: 15-30 years old
If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to PCOS. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
Irregular menstrual periods or no menstrual period (
—a combination of obesity, insulin resistance, high blood pressure,
, and increased tendency to blood clotting and inflammatory states
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. She will ask questions about your periods and when they first started. The doctor will also perform a physical exam, including a pelvic exam. She will evaluate a range of test results and symptoms:
Androgen–free testosterone, or total testosterone, DHEAS
and thyroid function tests are often done
Fasting blood sugar level
Fasting lipid profile
Treatment differs according to whether you want to conceive or not. Treatment targets the underlying insulin resistance that accompanies PCOS diagnosis.
Weight loss if overweight, nutrition consultation
Insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and prediabetes management
Anti-androgenic medications for blocking future
(unwanted hair growth)
To lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease:
Get regular screenings for diabetes, high blood cholesterol, and fat levels.
Eat a low-fat diet.
Maintain a healthy weight.
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. Other hormones (called progestins) may also be used to regulate menstruation. They can be used monthly or intermittently. Fertility drugs may be given instead to stimulate ovulation in women who want to become pregnant.
PCOS can be prevented by recognizing those at risk during their teen years—due to family history, irregular periods, and obesity. It is possible to avoid PCOS if the causes of obesity are addressed successfully, and you follow a special diet and exercises.
The InterNational Council on Infertility Information Dissemination. The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination website. Available at:
. Accessed June 15, 2008.
Polycystic ovary syndrome. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
. Published September 2000. Updated June 2005. Accessed June 15, 2008.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association website. Available at:
. Accessed June 15, 2008.
Stadmauer L, Oehninger S. Management of infertility in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a practical guide.
Stout DL, Fugate SE. Thiazolidinediones for treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome.
Vibikova J, Cibula D. Combined oral contraceptives in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome.
Hum Reprod Update
. 2005;11: 277-291.
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