Published on May 4, 2022
Read Time: Two Minutes
If you are ever diagnosed with PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or sometimes called polycystic ovary syndrome, you may have some questions about the condition.
What causes the disorder? What are symptoms of the condition? How can PCOS be treated?
Jenny Pennycook, MD, FACOG, an obstetrician/gynecologist with the Phelps Health Medical Group, answers these questions and more.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects about 7% of women who are of childbearing age. The condition can cause the following:
- Irregular menstrual cycles or periods
- Increased levels of male hormones, which can lead to excessive hair growth on the face, chest or abdomen, or severe acne
- Multiple small cysts on the ovaries
What causes PCOS? Are certain women at higher risk for PCOS?
The cause of PCOS is unknown, but many different factors, including insulin resistance or abnormal production of male hormones, can lead to PCOS.
Many women who have PCOS have pre-diabetes, and being overweight or obese can increase the effects of PCOS.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
Women with PCOS may experience the following symptoms:
- Irregular (especially infrequent) periods
- Abnormal hair growth or acne
- Darkened skin on the back of the neck or under the arms or inner thighs
PCOS can be diagnosed based upon symptoms, lab testing and sometimes, ultrasounds.
What are the treatment options for PCOS?
Treatment options for PCOS depend on your symptoms, other health problems and goals for pregnancy.
Weight loss can help relieve symptoms. Medications, such as oral contraceptives, medicines that decrease insulin resistance or medicines to aid ovulation (when an egg is released from the ovary), can be used to treat PCOS.
What is living with PCOS like?
Symptoms of PCOS can often be successfully managed with weight loss or medicines. Managing the condition can help reduce the risks of other long-term health effects caused by the disorder.
Having PCOS increases your lifetime risks of metabolic disease, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The condition also can increase your risk of getting endometrial hyperplasia (when the lining of the uterus becomes too thick) or endometrial cancer (in the lining of the uterus).
If you think you may have PCOS, you should talk to your doctor.