Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Also known as: polycystic ovary syndrome, PCOS.

What is polycystic ovarian syndrome?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a common (10% of teen girls/ young women) disorder among young women of reproductive age where the ovaries produce more than the normal amount of male hormones (ovaries produce hormones like progesterone and estrogen that cause female characteristics and male hormones called androgens - girls’ and boys’ sex organs both produce these hormones but in different amounts). Over time this produces cysts in the ovaries which can interfere with the release of the ovaries eggs and interfere with the ability to have children.

What causes polycystic ovarian syndrome?

The exact cause of polycystic ovarian syndrome isn’t clear. It appears in many families to be genetic and to run in families, with obesity (from lack of exercise) and an increased secretion of insulin.

What are the signs/symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome?

Signs/symptoms of too much male type hormone include; irregular or absent menstrual periods, skin symptoms of acne and scattered dark patches, increased body hair growth, thinning/ balding of head hair, obesity and insulin resistance. 

What are polycystic ovarian syndrome care options?

While there is no cure for PCOS, treatments aim at minimizing the hormone imbalance and improving symptoms. Hormone therapy (birth control pills) improves the menstrual cycle, acne and hair growth; medications used to treat diabetes, diet, exercise and weight loss can play a role in controlling the symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: December 18, 2020 05:02 PM

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