Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormone problem in women. With PCOS, the ovaries make follicles but they don’t mature and release an egg each month. The follicles can turn into fluid-filled sacs called cysts .

Ovary and Fallopian Tube
Ovarian Cyst
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The cause is not known. Insulin resistance seems to play a role. It creates high levels of insulin. This causes the ovaries to make too much of a male hormone called androgen. This can result in male features. It can stop ovulation from happening. It can lead to large ovaries with many cysts.

Risk Factors

Factors that may raise your chance of PCOS:

  • People in your family with PCOS
  • Obesity


Some women may not have symptoms. If you do, they may be:

  • Inability to become pregnant
  • Irregular or no menstrual periods
  • Obesity
  • Undesired hair growth
  • Hair loss from the scalp


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

You may have:

  • An ultrasound to view your ovaries
  • Blood tests to measure glucose, cholesterol, and hormone levels
  • Urine tests to check for pregnancy.


The goal of treatment is to target insulin resistance. The treatment you have depends on whether you want to become pregnant. You may need:

  • Medicine to:
    • Manage abnormal hair growth
    • Treat acne
    • Improve insulin resistance
    • Bring on ovulation if you want to become pregnant
    • Regulate menstruation
  • Lifestyle changes:
    • Weight loss if you are overweight
    • Healthy eating
    • Exercise


PCOS can't be prevented.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kathleen A. Barry, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2018 -
  • Update Date: 07/25/2018 -