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Fertility & Reproductive Health

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a common female hormone condition affecting up to 15 percent of adolescents and women of reproductive age. The women’s health experts at University Hospitals have expertise in diagnosing PCOS and designing individualized treatment plans to help manage symptoms.

Schedule an Appointment with a UH PCOS Expert

Our OB/GYN providers offer expert diagnosis and treatment for PCOS. Find a provider and schedule an appointment today.

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 often produce an abnormal amount of androgens, such as testosterone. This interferes with a woman’s menstrual cycle and causes other bothersome symptoms. It can also affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant. 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 presence of at least two of the following three criteria:

  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods: this includes having periods that last several days longer than a typical period or having fewer periods in a year than normal
  • An excess of androgen hormones, such as testosterone
  • Numerous small ovarian cysts: The ovaries may be larger than normal, and have numerous immature egg follicles or cysts around the edges

PCOS Treatment and Symptom Management

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. Common medications include those that can restore the menstrual cycle, improve insulin resistance and reduce hair growth. Patients who are trying to get pregnant may be prescribed medications that help induce ovulation.

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