Polycystic ovary syndrome

background

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), also called polycystic ovarian syndrome, is an endocrine disorder that affects approximately 5-10% of women of childbearing age. It is a leading cause of infertility and occurs among all races and nationalities. It is the most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age.
Women with PCOS have a hormonal imbalance. Although the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity are all strongly correlated with the syndrome. PCOS may be inherited. Not all women with PCOS have polycystic ovaries, nor do all women with ovarian cysts have PCOS. Risk factors include a family history, diabetes, or the use of valproic acid.
Symptoms of PCOS include weight problems, lack of regular ovulation and/or menstruation, skin changes, small cysts (fluid-filled sacs) in the ovaries, trouble getting pregnant, and excessive amounts or effects of androgenic (masculinizing) hormones. The symptoms and severity of the syndrome tend to start gradually and vary greatly among women. Women are usually diagnosed when in their 20s or 30s, but PCOS may also affect teenage girls. In these girls, the symptoms often begin after the first menstrual cycle. It is common for PCOS symptoms to be mistaken for other medical problems. Symptoms may be especially noticeable after a weight gain.
There is no single definitive test to diagnose PCOS. Although there is some disagreement in the medical community, PCOS is generally diagnosed based on medical history, physical exam, ultrasound of the ovaries, and the results of blood tests. Women diagnosed with PCOS are advised to see medical specialists, such as an endocrinologist, for long-term management of the syndrome. A reproductive endocrinologist may be able to assist women with PCOS that are trying to conceive.
PCOS cannot be prevented. However, early diagnosis and treatment may help in the prevention of long-term complications, such as endometrial cancer, infertility, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
There is no cure for PCOS. However, treatments are available to help control symptoms, such as irregular menstrual cycles, acne, and unwanted hair growth. Treatments include lifestyle modifications, medications, and, rarely, surgery. It is possible to have a normal life with proper management of PCOS symptoms. Becoming pregnant may be difficult, however.

Related Terms

Functional ovarian hyperandrogenism, hyperandrogenic chronic anovulation, infertility, ovarian hyperthecosis, PCOD, PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome, polycystic ovaries, polycystic ovary disease, polyfollicular ovarian disease, sclerocystic ovary syndrome, Stein-Leventhal syndrome.