What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a disorder in which a woman’s ovaries or adrenal glands produce more androgens, or male hormones, than usual. As a result, cysts (fluid-filled sacs) grow on the ovaries and interfere with ovulation.
PCOS is common among women of reproductive age and can lead to a higher risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and high blood pressure. Though the exact cause of the disorder is unknown, there are several factors that may contribute, including:
Insulin resistance, which leads to elevated insulin levels in the body
Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome usually develop during puberty and include:
Acne or oily skin — Excess androgens can lead to the development of acne on the chest, face and upper back.
Infertility — PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in women.
Irregular periods — Menstrual cycles may be infrequent and/or unusually heavy, occur as often as every 21 days, or stop altogether.
Too much facial and body hair — High levels of androgen can trigger hair growth.
- Weight gain — Insulin sensitivity can lead to weight gain. As a result, other health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and sleep apnea can develop.
Treatments for polycystic ovary syndrome may include:
Lifestyle changes — Regular, moderate exercise and a low-calorie diet may help to alleviate symptoms of PCOS and increase the effectiveness of any medications the doctor might recommend. Losing weight may regulate blood sugar levels and improve the way the body uses insulin. These changes can also help to avoid diseases associated with PCOS.
- Medication — Birth control pills, anti-androgen medicines or progestin therapy can sometimes help with PCOS.
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