PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

Mar 25, 2024By Maribel Dixon
Maribel Dixon

Understanding PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, commonly known as PCOS, is a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods, and excess male hormone (androgen) levels. The ovaries may develop numerous small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs.

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The Symptoms of PCOS

The signs and symptoms of PCOS often develop around the time of the first menstrual period during puberty. Sometimes PCOS develops later, for example, in response to substantial weight gain. Signs and symptoms of PCOS vary. A diagnosis of PCOS is made when you experience at least two of these signs:

  1. Irregular periods. Infrequent, irregular or prolonged menstrual cycles are the most common sign of PCOS. For example, you might have fewer than nine periods a year, more than 35 days between periods and abnormally heavy periods.
  2. Excess androgen. Elevated levels of male hormones may result in physical signs, such as excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), and occasionally severe acne and male-pattern baldness.
  3. Polycystic ovaries. Your ovaries might be enlarged and contain follicles that surround the eggs. As a result, the ovaries might fail to function regularly.

Causes of PCOS

Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is a condition where the body's cells do not respond normally to insulin, leading to high levels of insulin in the body. This excess insulin might increase androgen production, causing difficulty with ovulation.


Women with PCOS often have increased levels of inflammation in their body. Being overweight can also contribute to inflammation. Studies have linked excess inflammation to higher androgen levels.

Insulin resistance

Complications Associated with PCOS

Complications of PCOS can include:

  • Infertility. PCOS is one of the most common causes of female infertility.
  • Gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. If you have PCOS and become pregnant, you're at higher risk of complications.
  • Metabolic syndrome. This cluster of conditions — including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels — significantly raises your risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Depression and anxiety. Both are common in women with PCOS.
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Treatment of PCOS

Treatment of PCOS is usually focused on managing individual concerns, such as infertility, hirsutism, acne or obesity. Specific treatment might involve lifestyle changes or medication. It's important to talk with your doctor to understand the different options and choose the best treatment for you.

It's important to contact a healthcare professional if you suspect that you may have PCOS for evaluation.