Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common disorder that affects a woman’s hormones. The disorder may cause changes in a woman’s menstrual cycle and may make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant. Symptoms may first appear in teenage girls when menstruation begins. However, some women may not develop symptoms until they’re in their 20s or even 30s.

What causes PCOS?


The reason women get PCOS is not fully understood. However, it is likely hereditary. The chances of getting PCOS are increased if a family member has it. Also, a family history of diabetes increases the risk because there is a relationship between PCOS and the body’s production of insulin.

PCOS affects women of all races and nationalities, and the signs and symptoms can be different from woman to woman. Knowing the symptoms and getting diagnosed early are important in order to control symptoms and prevent future health problems.

Health risks of PCOS

It is important to understand the health risks once you have been diagnosed with PCOS. Every woman is different, so not every woman will develop these conditions. PCOS increases the risks however. PCOS has been linked to the following medical conditions:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Infertility
  • Endometrial cancer
  • High blood pressure
  • Cholesterol or lipid abnormalities
  • Depression

It is important to have your health monitored regularly by a Henry Ford reproductive endocrinologist who specializes in treating PCOS.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

The symptoms of PCOS may be mild at first, and one or more of the symptoms may be present. The most common symptoms/signs are the following:

  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Excessive hair growth on the face, chest, stomach or back (known as hirsutism)
  • Loss of hair from the scalp
  • Acne and oily skin
  • Insulin resistance
  • Weight gain or trouble losing weight
  • Polycystic ovary appearance
  • Fertility problems

How is PCOS diagnosed?

Symptoms of PCOS may be overlooked because they seem unrelated. Many women may not be diagnosed until symptoms are advanced or until they experience fertility problems. A single test cannot diagnose PCOS. This means that your doctor will consider symptoms and family history when diagnosing PCOS and then rule out other possible disorders. In addition to a physical exam, your doctor may also perform the following:

  • Pelvic exam – to visually and manually check the reproductive organs
  • Blood tests – to test the levels of several hormones and detect elevated levels of androgens, which cause hair loss.
  • Ultrasound – to see if the ovaries are enlarged and cystic.

Treatment options for PCOS

Treatment options will vary based on your primary concerns. Learn more about the treatment options for PCOS.

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