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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a clinical syndrome characterized by mild obesity, irregular menses or absence of periods, and signs of androgen excess, (such as facial hair/hirsutism and acne). The ovaries may contain multiple cysts, but this isn’t always evident.

Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome usually do not ovulate regularly and typically have irregular periods. One of the main contributing factors to PCOS is insulin resistance. High insulin prevents ovulation and stimulates the ovaries to produce more hormones called androgens. Elevated insulin levels can make it very difficult to lose weight and is a precursor to diabetes.

PCOS has several serious complications. Estrogen levels are elevated, increasing the risk of Endometrial Hyperplasia and, eventually, Endometrial Cancer. Androgen levels are also often elevated, increasing the risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disorders. Hyperinsulinemia due to insulin resistance may be present and may lead to Type II Diabetes. 


  • irregular menstruation 
  • infertility 
  • hirsutism 
  • acne 
  • obesity 
  • hypertension 
  • high cholesterol 
  • oily skin or excessive sweating 

Diagnosis can be made by symptoms, labs, ruling out pregnancy, hormone measurements, and imaging to exclude a virilizing tumor.

Diagram comparing a normal ovary with a polycystic ovary

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