Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a reproductive disorder in women that may start as early as puberty.
In this disorder, cysts form in the ovaries and make them larger. This happens when an excess of male hormones, known as androgens, interfere with normal ovulation and other metabolic functions.
About 5 to 10 percent of women have PCOS.
Symptoms of PCOS
- Missed or irregular periods
- Irregular bleeding
- Increased hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, or toes (also known as hirsutism)
- High levels of male hormones (androgens)
PCOS can lead to:
If you have most of the symptoms listed above, see your doctor for a physical exam.
Your doctor might also do an ultrasound to check for cysts on your ovaries.
Treatment for PCOS focuses on the symptoms and the effects from the abnormal male hormones and may involve:
- Oral contraceptives
- Medication to slow, or inhibit, hair growth
- Medications to make you more sensitive to insulin (thus reducing your insulin resistance)
- Androgen antagonists to prevent the effects of the male hormones
Lifestyle changes may also have a positive impact on your quality of life.
Targeting a modest weight reduction — as little as 10 percent of your weight — can help reverse some symptoms. Regular exercise also has been effective for some women.