What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome is so-called because women with this condition usually have polycystic ovaries. The term describes ovaries that contain about twice the normal number of small cysts which are usually no bigger than 8 mm each. They are located just below the surface of the ovaries and are egg-containing follicles that have not developed properly due to a number of hormonal abnormalities.

Women with PCOS may also have one or more additional symptoms including:

  • reduced fertility – difficulty becoming pregnant
  • irregular periods or no periods / irregular ovulation or no ovulation
  • increased risk of developing diabetes or high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia) during pregnancy
  • weight problems – being overweight, rapid weight gain, difficulty losing weight
  • skin problems including oily skin, acne
  • unwanted facial or body hair (hirsutism) / thinning hair or hair loss (alopecia)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is very common, affecting 5–10 % of women. A larger group of women (~ 20%) have polycystic ovaries (PCO) without the other symptoms listed above.

PCOS

  • affects millions of women in the UK and worldwide
  • runs in families
  • is one of the leading causes of fertility problems in women
  • if not properly managed, can lead to additional health problems in later life
  • can affect a woman’s appearance and self-esteem

PCOS affects women in different ways

Some women may have few, mild symptoms while others may have a wider range of more severe symptoms. The symptoms usually start in adolescence, although some women do not develop them until their early to mid-twenties.