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Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome: Introduction

PCOS is the acronym for polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS is a common condition in women that is due to the development of multiple ovarian cysts do not go away by themselves.

Ovarian cysts are a common condition in which one or more cysts form on the ovary or ovaries of a woman's reproductive system generally due to a woman's changing hormones that normally occur during the monthly menstrual cycle. An ovarian cyst consists of a sac filled with fluid, blood, or tissue. Ovarian cysts are generally not dangerous and often go away by themselves within weeks to a few months. However, some ovarian cysts can remain and lead to the development of PCOS.

The underlying cause of PCOS is a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is due to the body's production of high amounts of insulin in order to control blood sugar levels. Excessive insulin causes the ovaries to produce too much of the hormone testosterone and other male sex hormones.

PCOS can cause serious problems to health and fertility. PCOS is considered a form of prediabetes. PCOS is also linked to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of PCOS can include irregular menstrual periods or no menstrual periods (amenorrhea). Complications can include infertility. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of PCOS.

Making a diagnosis of PCOS begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. A pelvic examination is also performed to examine the inside of the vagina, the cervix of the uterus, and to feel and palpate the ovaries and assess the general health of a woman's reproductive organs. During this examination, the health care provider may be able to feel the presence of a ovarian cysts that can result in PCOS.

Diagnostic testing includes a blood test that can detect abnormally high levels of testosterone, a hormone normally present in a woman's body in small amounts. PCOS causes a woman's ovaries to produce too much testosterone.

A pelvic and vaginal ultrasound may also be performed. This imaging test uses sound wave technology to create an image of the ovaries and can reveal enlarged ovaries that contain many ovarian cysts.

It is possible that a diagnosis of PCOS can be missed or delayed because some symptoms are similar to those of other diseases and conditions and for other reasons. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of PCOS.

Treatment of PCOS requires regular follow-up care, including pelvic examinations with a licensed health care clinician and ultrasound testing. PCOS is most effectively treated by addressing the underlying insulin resistance. This can include a plan of weight loss, exercise, healthy eating and medication. Treatment may also include medication to address irregular periods and infertility. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of PCOS. ...more »

Polycystic ovary syndrome: A disease of the ovaries in women that has various impacts on female hormones. As the name suggests, the disease is caused by frequent cysts on the ovaries. ...more »

Polycystic ovary syndrome: Symptoms

Symptoms of PCOS can differ between individuals. Symptoms typical of PCOS are due to the underlying process of PCOS. The cause of PCOS is a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is due to the body's production of high amounts of insulin in order to control blood sugar levels. Excessive insulin causes the ovaries to produce too much of the hormone testosterone and other male ...more symptoms »

Polycystic ovary syndrome: Treatments

PCOS is most effectively treated by treating the underlying insulin resistance that causes PCOS. This can include consistently following a healthy plan of weight loss, exercise, a well-balanced diet and medication. The medication used to treat insulin resistance is called metformin, which helps the body to better use insulin and can help to establish ...more treatments »

Polycystic ovary syndrome: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of PCOS may be overlooked or delayed because symptoms can vary between individual women. Symptoms, such as irregular menstrual periods may be mistaken for symptoms of such conditions as perimenopause, endometriosis, puberty, and sexually transmitted diseases. Symptoms can also be similar to symptoms of thyroid diseases and other endocrine diseases.

Because of the ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Polycystic ovary syndrome

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Polycystic ovary syndrome: Complications

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Causes of Polycystic ovary syndrome

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Polycystic ovary syndrome: Undiagnosed Conditions

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Prognosis for Polycystic ovary syndrome

Prognosis for Polycystic ovary syndrome: good response to treatment but recurrences often occur

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Article Excerpts about Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a syndrome in which the ovaries are enlarged and have several fluid-filled sacs or cysts. These cysts may look like a string of pearls or a pearl necklace. A woman can develop one cyst or many cysts. Polycystic ovaries are usually 1.5 to 3 times larger than normal. Women with PCOS may experience a number of other symptoms as well. PCOS is a leading cause of infertility and is the most common reproductive syndrome in women of childbearing age. (Source: excerpt from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): NWHIC)

Definitions of Polycystic ovary syndrome:

Clinical symptom complex characterized by presence of multiple cysts on the ovaries, oligomenorrhea or amenorrhea, anovulation and regularly associated with excessive amounts of body hair (hirsuitism), excessive body weight, infertility and insulin resistance. - (Source - Diseases Database)

Polycystic ovary syndrome is listed as a "rare disease" by the Office of Rare Diseases (ORD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This means that Polycystic ovary syndrome, or a subtype of Polycystic ovary syndrome, affects less than 200,000 people in the US population.
Source - National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Ophanet, a consortium of European partners, currently defines a condition rare when it affects 1 person per 2,000. They list Polycystic ovary syndrome as a "rare disease".
Source - Orphanet

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