Does PCOS Go Away?

Reviewed on 9/26/2022
Illustration of ovarian cysts caused by PCOS
There is no cure for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and many people will need a combination of treatments, such as hormonal birth control, anti-androgen medications, metformin (Glucophage), and others.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones that results in problems in the ovaries. Monthly ovulation does not occur and levels of male hormones (androgens) in females are elevated. 

PCOS does not go away. There is no cure for PCOS, and the goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Many people will need a combination of treatments, such as:

Home treatments to help PCOS symptoms include: 

  • Weight loss
    • One of the most effective ways to manage insulin abnormalities, irregular menstrual periods, infertility, and other symptoms of PCOS
  • Regular exercise
  • Hair removal treatments
    • Creams/depilatories
    • Electrolysis
    • Laser hair removal
  • Hair replacement and wigs for scalp hair loss

What Are Symptoms of PCOS?

Symptoms of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) usually start around puberty, but some people may not develop symptoms until late adolescence or early adulthood. Early signs of PCOS may include: 

  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Weight gain, obesity, or difficulty losing weight
  • Acne
    • May be severe or unresponsive to usual treatments
  • Oily skin
  • Difficulty conceiving
    • PCOS is a common cause of infertility and cysts in the ovaries

Other symptoms of PCOS may include:

What Causes PCOS?

The cause of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is unknown but several factors are thought to play a role, such as:

  • Insulin abnormalities
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Reproductive system abnormalities
    • High levels of male hormones (androgens) 
    • Abnormal levels of the pituitary hormone luteinizing hormone (LH)

How Is PCOS Diagnosed?

PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is diagnosed with a patient history and physical examination and tests such as:

  • Pelvic exam
  • Pelvic ultrasound (sonogram)
  • Body mass index (BMI) measurement and waist size
  • Blood tests
    • Androgen hormone levels
    • Cholesterol levels 
    • Blood glucose 
    • Pregnancy
    • Prolactin level
    • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
    • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) 
  • Sleep studies for sleep apnea screening

Once other conditions are ruled out, a diagnosis of PCOS may be made when at least two of the following symptoms occur: 

  • Irregular periods
  • Signs of high levels of androgens such as:
    • Thinning of scalp hair
    • Excess male-pattern hair growth (hirsutism)
    • Acne
  • High blood levels of androgens
  • Multiple cysts on one or both ovaries
Reviewed on 9/26/2022

Image source: iStock Images