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About Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a set of symptoms related to a hormonal imbalance that can affect women and girls of reproductive age.

What is PCOS?

PCOS is a set of symptoms related to a hormonal imbalance that can affect women and girls of reproductive age. Women with PCOS usually have at least two of the following three conditions:1

  • Absence of ovulation, leading to irregular menstrual periods or no periods at all
  • High levels of androgens (a type of hormone) or signs of high androgens, such as having excess body or facial hair
  • Cysts (fluid-filled sacs) on one or both ovaries—"polycystic" literally means "having many cysts"

Some women diagnosed with PCOS have the first two conditions listed above as well as other symptoms of PCOS but do not have cysts on their ovaries.

PCOS is the most common cause of anovulatory (pronounced an-OV-yuh-luh-tawr-ee) infertility, meaning that the infertility results from the absence of ovulation, the process that releases a mature egg from the ovary every month. Many women don't find out that they have PCOS until they have trouble getting pregnant.

PCOS can cause other problems as well, such as unwanted hair growth, dark patches of skin, acne, weight gain, and irregular bleeding.

Women with PCOS are also at higher risk for:2

Learn more about disorders and conditions associated with PCOS.

Citations

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  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2015). Polycystic ovary syndrome. Retrieved May 20, 2016, from http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Polycystic-Ovary-Syndrome-PCOS External Web Site Policy [top]
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health. (2014). Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) fact sheet. Retrieved May 20, 2016, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html [top]

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

How many people are affected or at risk for PCOS?

What causes PCOS?

How do health care providers diagnose PCOS?

Is there a cure for PCOS?

What are the treatments for PCOS?