What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

Leszek Grabowski, MD is an OB/GYN at Banner Health Center in Surprise. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Grabowski, call 623-478-3100.

Question: What is Polycystic ovary syndrome?

Answer: Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a condition where a woman’s hormones become out of balance due to small cysts that develop on the ovaries. These cysts interfere with the production of certain hormones, which can lead to irregular periods, difficulty getting pregnant, unwanted hair growth on the face and body, and acne problems.

The ovaries produce a small amount of male sex hormones called androgens. However, in PCOS, the ovaries produce higher levels of androgens, which inhibit ovulation and lead to the other physical changes mentioned above. Also, PCOS can contribute to insulin resistance, in which the body does not use insulin properly to regulate sugar levels.

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it may be influenced by heredity. If any women on your mother or father’s side of the family have PCOS, diabetes or irregular menstrual cycles, you may inherit the condition. PCOS is diagnosed through a physical exam to look for symptoms, a review of health history, and lab tests to check hormone and sugar levels in the blood. In some cases, a pelvic ultrasound can determine if cysts on the ovaries are present.

PCOS is treatable and symptoms are best controlled when the condition is diagnosed early. In most cases, women will be prescribed a birth control pill to restore the balance of male and female hormones in the body. For women wishing to become pregnant, other treatments may be used to promote ovulation or address the PCOS-related insulin resistance, such as a diabetic medication. Maintaining a healthy weight is also key to managing PCOS. If you suspect you have PCOS, talk with your doctor about your symptoms to determine what tests and treatments might be appropriate. Long-term problems can be prevented with the right treatment plan.