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What are the symptoms of PCOS?

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In addition to the three features used to diagnose PCOS (absence of ovulation, high levels of androgens, and ovarian cysts), PCOS has many signs and symptoms, some of which may not seem to be related:1,2

  • Menstrual irregularities:
    • No menstrual periods—called amenorrhea (pronounced ey-men-uh-REE-uh)
    • Frequently missed periods—called oligomenorrhea (pronounced ol-i-goh-men-uh-REE-uh)
    • Very heavy periods
    • Bleeding but no ovulation—called anovulatory periods
  • Infertility
  • Excess hair growth on the face, chest, belly, or upper thighs—a condition called hirsutism (pronounced HUR-soo-tiz-uhm)
  • Severe, late-onset, or persistent acne that does not respond well to usual treatments
  • Obesity, weight gain, or trouble losing weight, especially around the waist
  • Pelvic pain
  • Oily skin
  • Patches of thickened, dark, velvety skin—a condition called acanthosis nigricans (pronounced ay-kan-THOE-sis NY-grih-kanz)

Because many women don't consider problems such as oily skin, extra hair growth, or acne to be symptoms of a serious health condition, they may not mention these things to their health care providers. As a result, many women aren't diagnosed with PCOS until they have trouble getting pregnant or if they have abnormal periods or missed periods.

Although PCOS is a leading cause of infertility, many women with PCOS can and do get pregnant. Pregnant women who have PCOS, however, are at higher risk for certain problems, such as miscarriage. Click here to learn more about PCOS-related pregnancy problems.


  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2011). Polycystic ovary syndrome. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq121.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120510T1116545699 External Web Site Policy (PDF - 273 KB) [top]
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women's Health. (2010). Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) fact sheet. Retrieved April 24, 2012, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html [top]

Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 05/23/2013
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