What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), also known as polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a common health problem caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones. The hormonal imbalance creates problems in the ovaries. The ovaries make the egg that is released each month as part of a healthy menstrual cycle. With PCOS, the egg may not develop as it should or it may not be released during ovulation as it should be.
PCOS can cause missed or irregular menstrual periods. Irregular periods can lead to:
- Infertility (inability to get pregnant). In fact, PCOS is one of the most common causes of female infertility.
- Development of cysts (small fluid-filled sacs) in the ovaries
Who gets PCOS?
Between 5% and 10% of women of childbearing age (between 15 and 44) have PCOS. Most often, women find out they have PCOS in their 20s and 30s, when they have problems getting pregnant and see their doctor. But PCOS can happen at any age after puberty. Women of all races and ethnicities are at risk for PCOS, but your risk for PCOS may be higher if you are obese or if you have a mother, sister, or aunt with PCOS.
Some of the symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular menstrual cycle. Women with PCOS may miss periods or have fewer periods (fewer than eight in a year). Or, their periods may come every 21 days or more often. Some women with PCOS stop having menstrual periods.
- Too much hair on the face, chin, or parts of the body where men usually have hair. This is called “hirsutism.” Hirsutism affects up to 70% of women with PCOS.
- Acne on the face, chest, and upper back
- Thinning hair or hair loss on the scalp; male-pattern baldness
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Darkening of skin, particularly along neck creases, in the groin, and underneath breasts
- Skin tags, which are small excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area
Researchers continue to search for new ways to treat PCOS. Some current studies focus on:
- Genetics and PCOS
- Environmental exposure and PCOS risk
- Ethnic and racial differences in PCOS symptoms
- Medicines and supplements to restart ovulation
- Obesity and its link to PCOS
- Health risks for children of women with PCOS
To learn more about current PCOS treatment studies, visit ClinicalTrials.gov.
To make an appointment with our PCOS specialist, call our Manhattan endocrinology practice at 646-759-9388 or click here to make an appointment.