What Is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

Common PCOS Symptoms

In general, symptoms of PCOS start off gradually and may even start in the early teen years. These symptoms are often misdiagnosed as causes of other medical problems. Although PCOS will manifest itself differently in each woman, some of the possible symptoms may include:
  • Irregular ovulation, with or without bleeding
  • Irregular or no menstrual periods (in women of reproductive age)
  • Acne
  • Thinning scalp hair
  • Obesity, weight gain (usually around the waist), and an inability to lose weight
  • Breathing problems while sleeping
  • Depression
  • Oily skin
  • Infertility (PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility)
  • Skin discolorations
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Lower abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Skin tags
  • Excess hair growth on the face, chest, abdomen (stomach), back, and body (hirsutism)
  • Accumulation of unruptured follicles on the ovaries (mislabeled as "cysts," often caused by polycystic ovaries).
You don't necessarily need to have all of these symptoms to be diagnosed with PCOS. In fact, you don't need to have polycystic ovaries to have it.
Also, approximately 60 percent of women who have PCOS will have weight management issues, which may lead to obesity even with a normal intake of calories.
Although there is no cure for PCOS, it can be managed successfully through diet, exercise, and medical intervention. If the condition is left untreated, it can progress to diabetes and may even lead to certain types of cancer. Once PCOS is managed, it often alleviates many of the symptoms and can help women to live healthier lifestyles.
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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