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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome  

Get accurate information about polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) - including symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options.

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What is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition characterized by an imbalance of hormones, which can cause problems with the ovaries and menstrual irregularities. It affects 5 to 10 percent of women. It is a common contributor to fertility issues for women.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

Some symptoms of PCOS include:

  • Acne
  • Darkening of the skin, often thick and patchy
  • Growing an excess of hair on your face, chest, stomach or upper thighs
  • Hair that is thinning
  • Infertility
  • Irregular or missed periods
  • Weight gain

How is PCOS diagnosed?

Tell your reproductive endocrinologist, or board certified fertility specialist, about your symptoms. He or she may do a physical and pelvic exam, as well as ask you about your medical history. Your fertility specialist may also take a blood test and perform a vaginal ultrasound to find out if there are cysts on your ovaries.

For a final diagnosis of PCOS, you will most likely have two of these three findings:

  • Cysts on your ovaries
  • High testosterone levels
  • No ovulation

How is PCOS treated?

There is no cure for this condition, but there are ways you can manage the symptoms and improve your chances of restoring ovulation. Treatments may include:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular physical activity to maintain a healthy weight
  • Certain medications used to treat type 2 diabetes may result in resumption of ovulation
  • Fertility medication, such as Clomid (clomiphene citrate) or Femara (letrozole), to help a woman ovulate regularly
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • Though rare, surgery may be recommended to improve chances of ovulating (if a woman is not responding to fertility medication)

By Kristin Nelson, Contributing Writer

Sources

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). FAQ: Treating infertility. Accessed May 11, 2017.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Common Reproductive Health Concerns for Women. Accessed May 11, 2017.
Reproductive facts.org. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Accessed May 11, 2017.
Womenshealth.gov. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) fact sheet. Accessed May 11, 2017.

Last Updated: June 8, 2017