Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) represents a group of symptoms that result from hormone abnormalities.

In PCOS it is thought that many small cysts develop on the ovaries causing the menstrual problems that most people with PCOS experience.

The cause of PCOS is unknown, but we know that it runs in families. If your mother or sister has PCOS, it is more likely that you will also.

It is very important for those affected to understand the syndrome and get treatment because PCOS may increase the risk of developing uterine cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

  • Abnormal menstrual cycle
  • Enlarged ovaries containing small cysts or fluid-filled sacs
  • Acne
  • Increased hair growth (hirsutism)
  • Obesity
  • Insulin resistance
  • Thickened lining of the uterus, which may cause heavy bleeding
  • Trouble becoming pregnant (infertility)
  • Heart disease or high blood pressure
  • High fat levels in the blood
  • Diabetes

Diagnosis of PCOS is made by both a complete physical exam that may or may not include an examination of the pelvic area and having blood work done.

In some cases, an ultrasound of the pelvic area is performed.

There is no cure for PCOS. The purpose of treatment is to correct the hormone imbalance and to minimize symptoms and complications.

Most people with PCOS will be treated with some form of hormone therapy. Oral contraceptive pills (OCPs), with a combination of estrogen and progestin, are first-line therapy for hormone correction. This will normalize the menstrual cycle, decrease acne formation, and possibly decrease excess hair growth.

Some patients are started on Metformin, a medication that is used in diabetes, to help control insulin levels. Your healthcare provider will help you determine if this option or other hormone options are best for you.

Other treatment methods, such as acne medicine and medicine to control insulin levels (usually in combination with OCPs), may help treat the other symptoms.

Lastly, maintaining a healthy weight can help to decrease effects of PCOS and minimize the risk of experiencing the complications, specifically high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes. Regular exercise helps the body use insulin correctly and helps to lower blood sugar.

For more information, contact the Teen Health Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 513-636-4681.

Last Updated 11/2013