Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have a hormonal imbalance that interferes with normal reproductive processes. PCOS usually starts at puberty and is associated with irregular periods and other hormone-related symptoms.
The most concerning issues with PCOS are the increase of infertility, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and the higher risk of developing endometrial (uterine) cancer at an early age.
Research is ongoing to uncover a cause for PCOS. There is evidence that shows a link between certain forms of PCOS and family history, suggesting a genetic basis for the condition.
Most cases can be diagnosed with a thorough evaluation of your medical history and symptoms, as well as a physical exam. A blood test may be required to measure the levels of various hormones. In some cases, an ultrasound of the ovaries may help with diagnosis.
Although PCOS can be treated with medications, treatment is often highly dependent on your goals and your symptoms.
If you want to become pregnant, you may need the assistance of oral or injected fertility medications. If you do not want to become pregnant, you may consider birth control pills to prevent pregnancy and regulate periods. Periods can also be regulated using the hormone progesterone.
There is also a non-hormonal treatment option, which is a medication usually used for diabetes. Even if you don't have diabetes, this medication may help restore fertility and assist with weight loss.
Other symptoms such as unwanted hair growth, acne, obesity, and diabetes should be managed by specialists in those areas. Birth control pills are often helpful in the treatment of hair growth and acne.
You should discuss specific treatment options with your physician.
There is no known prevention for PCOS. However, through proper nutrition and weight management, many women with PCOS can avoid developing diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
While specific fertility issues should be addressed with your physician, there are some general healthcare guidelines that may improve your chances of becoming pregnant:
This information is provided by your physician and the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine and the Cleveland Clinic Center for Specialized Women's Health. This information has not been designed to replace a physician's medical assessment and medical judgment.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 11/03/2014