PCOS is a problem with hormones that affects women during their childbearing years (ages 15 to 44). Between 2.2 and 26.7 percent of women in this age group have PCOS (1, 2).
Many women have PCOS but don’t know it. In one study, up to 70 percent of women with PCOS hadn’t been diagnosed.
PCOS affects a woman’s ovaries, the reproductive organs that produce estrogen and progesterone — hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. The ovaries also produce a small amount of male hormones called androgens.
The ovaries release eggs to be fertilized by a man’s sperm. The release of an egg each month is called ovulation.
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) control ovulation. FSH stimulates the ovary to produce a follicle — a sac that contains an egg — and then LH triggers the ovary to release a mature egg.
PCOS is a “syndrome,” or group of symptoms that affects the ovaries and ovulation. Its three main features are:
Doctors don’t know exactly what causes PCOS. They believe that high levels of male hormones prevent the ovaries from producing hormones and making eggs normally. Genes, insulin resistance, and inflammation have all been linked to excess androgen production.
PCOS treatment focuses on managing your individual concerns, such as infertility, hirsutism, acne or obesity. Specific treatment might involve lifestyle changes or medication.
List symptoms you've been having, and for how long
List all medications, vitamins and supplements you take, including the doses
List key personal and medical information, including other conditions, recent life changes and stressors
Prepare questions to ask your doctor
Keep a record of your menstrual cycles