Pinky Ronen, M.D.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition that can cause women to have irregular periods, get acne (oily skin and pimples), grow extra facial hair, or lose hair from their head. The condition can also make it hard to get pregnant. People sometimes refer to polycystic ovary syndrome as “PCOS.” It is very common — about 5 percent of all women have PCOS.
In women with PCOS, the ovaries don’t work very well. About once a month, the ovaries are supposed to make a structure called a follicle. As the follicle grows, it makes hormones. Then, it releases an egg. This is called “ovulation.”
But in women with PCOS, the ovary makes many small follicles instead of one big one. Hormone levels can get out of balance. And ovulation doesn’t happen every month the way it is supposed to. Doctors aren’t sure why this happens to some women.
Women with the condition might:
Yes. Women with PCOS are more likely to end up with other health problems, too. These include:
Your doctor or nurse will decide which tests you should have based on your age, symptoms, and individual situation. Possible tests include:
The most common treatment is to take birth control pills. The pills don’t cure the disease. But they can improve many of its symptoms. Birth control pills also protect women from cancer of the uterus.
Other treatments for symptoms of PCOS are:
Yes. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can improve many of your symptoms. Losing just 5 percent of your body weight can help a lot. That adds up to 10 pounds of weight loss for a 200-pound woman.
Don’t lose hope. Most women with PCOS are able to get pregnant, but it can take a while. If you are overweight, losing weight can help make your periods regular and improve your chances of getting pregnant. If you lose weight but your periods are still irregular, your doctor can give you medicines that will help you ovulate and get pregnant.
Women with PCOS are able to live normal lives. But it is important to see a doctor. Treatments will help your symptoms and protect you from other diseases