Women's Health Matters

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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a common endocrine abnormality that affects six to 10 percent of women of reproductive age. PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility. It can also influence a woman's cardiovascular health and have other serious implications for her health and lifestyle.

Signs and Symptoms
PCOS is generally considered a syndrome rather than a disease (although it is sometimes called Polycystic Ovary Disease) because it manifests itself through a group of signs and symptoms that can occur in any combination, rather than having one known cause or presentation.

PCOS is associated with:

  • infrequent and irregular periods or no periods
  • evidence of excess hormones called androgens , which can cause a woman to have extra facial and body hair, acne and male-pattern baldness
  • the appearance of polycystic ovaries on ultrasound
  • the absence of other causes that explain these symptoms

Risk Factors
PCOS often runs in families; however, there is no proof that it is hereditary. Usually, a woman with the condition will begin to experience menstrual irregularities within three to four years after her first period. Women may have other conditions, which cause irregular menstrual cycles or other symptoms, which mimic PCOS, but are not due to PCOS itself. Make sure you ask your doctor to rule out these conditions before you begin any treatment for PCOS.


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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Medical Description





  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital