In polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the balance of male and female hormones that regulate the production and release of eggs is disrupted.
This causes one or more of the following:
The enlarged fluid-filled sacs prevent eggs from being released and give the condition its name. However, the term polycystic can be confusing, as you don’t actually have cysts if you have PCOS.
Symptoms include irregular periods, acne and excess facial or body hair (as a result of male hormones). PCOS often leads to infertility problems.
Roughly one in five women in the UK are thought to have PCOS, although more than half don’t have symptoms. It usually starts in teenage years.
Although there's no cure, PCOS can be effectively treated and symptoms managed.
Common PCOS symptoms are:
See your GP if you’re experiencing these symptoms. You may need the following tests to help with your diagnosis:
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown.
Some women with PCOS have insulin resistance, the hormone that helps control blood sugar levels. This means your body produces more insulin to compensate, which can trigger the ovaries to increase production of male hormones, such as testosterone. It’s normal for women to have a low level of the male hormones. However, if you have too much, you may have problems with ovulation and unwanted facial and body hair.
PCOS often runs in families, suggesting that specific genes are linked to the condition.
There's no cure but you can treat the symptoms. PCOS treatment includes:
If fertility treatments are unsuccessful, your doctor may recommend a simple surgical procedure called laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD). LOD destroys the tissue in your ovary that's producing excess male hormones.