Fertility & Reproductive Health

Diagnosing and Treating Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

The women’s health experts at University Hospitals have expertise in diagnosing and treating polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), one of the most common hormonal problems that affect female adolescents and women.

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What is PCOS?

PCOS occurs when hormone levels are out of balance. Women with PCOS may not make enough of the hormones needed to ovulate, which can cause numerous small cysts to form in the ovaries. These cysts can produce an abnormal amount of androgens, or male sex hormones. This can cause more problems with a woman’s menstrual cycle and other bothersome symptoms.

PCOS Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome include:

  • Absent or irregular menstrual periods
  • Acne
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased facial and body hair
  • Infertility
  • Insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes
  • Thinning hair
  • Weight gain

PCOS Diagnosis

To diagnose PCOS, your health provider will likely perform a physical exam, including a pelvic exam, as well as review your medical history and symptoms. Additional diagnostic tools include ultrasound to view the ovaries and blood tests to check hormone levels.

Diagnosis is based on the existence of the following symptoms:

  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • An excess of androgen (male type) hormones
  • Numerous small ovarian cysts

PCOS Treatment

PCOS, though treatable, is a chronic condition that runs in families. Medications are often used in the treatment of PCOS. While no known treatment can cure PCOS, medications and lifestyle changes can reduce symptoms and prevent certain future health problems. Types of medications used include those that can restore menstrual cycles, lessen insulin resistance, and reduce hair growth. Patients also have access to clinical trials that offer the most advanced treatment options available.

In addition to medications, patients are encouraged to make lifestyle modifications, such as diet and exercise, to help reduce symptoms. Being at a healthy weight can help your body use insulin more efficiently and lower blood glucose levels.