what is PCOS
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a group of symptoms rather than a specific disease. While the ovaries may develop cysts, that is not necessary for the diagnosis of PCOS. Many patients who have PCOS are overweight or obese. It is one of the most common hormonal and reproductive conditions in young women, affecting approximately one in every 15 women.
The primary cause of PCOS may be due to abnormal production of certain hormones in the brain. This disruption leads to an increase in the production of male hormones, such as testosterone, and inhibition of ovulation.
The most common symptom of PCOS is irregular menstrual cycles. Other symptoms include acne, cardiovascular disease, excessive body hair (particularly facial hair), infertility, insulin resistance or pre-diabetes, obesity, polycystic ovaries, and scalp hair loss.
Because women with PCOS can exhibit a variety of symptoms, care is designed to meet the specific needs of each patient. Treatment is tailored according to the particular symptoms experienced by each patient. Medical therapies are often used to regulate menstrual cycles, reduce testosterone levels, lower insulin levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and eliminate unwanted hair growth. Nutrition education will help reduce excess weight, and psychological support can help reduce stress.
Located at the Gretchen S. and Edward A. Fish Center for Women’s Health in the Brigham and Women’s Health Care Center in Chestnut Hill, the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Program brings together experts in gynecology, endocrinology, dermatology, nutrition, and other specialties to deliver comprehensive, individualized, and coordinated care for women with PCOS.
Learn more about the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital:
Read the Understanding Polycystic Ovary Syndrome video transcript:
A hormonal disorder causing enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges.
The cause of polycystic ovary syndrome isn’t well understood, but may involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Requires a medical diagnosis
Symptoms include menstrual irregularity, excess hair growth, acne and obesity.
People may experience:
Menstrual: abnormal menstruation, absence of menstruation, heavy menstruation, irregular menstruation, short and light menstruation, or spotting
Weight: obesity, overweight, or weight gain
Skin: acne or oily skin
Also common: infertility, dark patches of skin in folds and creases, depression, inappropriate male features, loss of scalp hair, or unwanted hair
Consult a doctor for medical advice
Treatment consists of hormones
Treatments include birth control pills to regularise periods, medication called metformin to prevent diabetes, statins to control high cholesterol, hormones to increase fertility and procedures to remove excess hair