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Picture of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Illustration of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal endocrine disorder that occurs in women. PCOS affects approximately 5 million women in the United States. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. Doctors think that genetics may play a role in causing PCOS. Women diagnosed with PCOS have higher levels of androgens (male hormones that are present in lower amounts in females), which affects the maturation and release of eggs in a woman's monthly cycle. Excess insulin and abnormal insulin metabolism are also found in women affected by PCOS.

Symptoms of PCOS vary from case to case, which makes diagnosis difficult. Common symptoms of PCOS include irregular menstrual cycles, large amounts of small cysts on the ovaries, weight gain, excess hair growth on the face and body, darkened patches of skin, skin tags, and more. Diagnosis of PCOS may be established by taking a medical history and performing a physical exam, pelvic exam, blood tests, and a vaginal ultrasound. Treatment for PCOS may include making healthier lifestyle choices to reduce weight and excess body fat, taking birth control pills to reduce androgen levels, and taking medications to reduce hair growth and acne. Surgery may help normalize ovulation if a woman with PCOS is having difficulty conceiving.

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Text References: PCOS Foundation: "About Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome"

PCOS Foundation: "How Do I Know If I have PCOS?"

WomensHealth.gov: "Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Fact Sheet"