Polycystic Ovary Syndrome


What is polycystic ovary syndrome?

Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS for short, is a hormone disorder that affects approximately 5-10 percent of women every year. One of the well-known characteristics of the disorder is the growth of multiple cysts in the ovary and physical features, such as excess hair growth and obesity. Because it affects the ovary, a female reproductive organ responsible for releasing the eggs each month (called ovulation), PCOS could make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant. It is also one of the leading causes of infertility. Yet, only about 30% of women with PCOS get a proper diagnosis of the disorder.

Can polycystic ovary syndrome go away on its own?

Unfortunately, PCOS does not go away on its own, and it requires medical attention to treat it. Although currently, it is a lifelong condition with no cure, it is highly treatable with the right medications and lifestyle management.

Can I get pregnant with polycystic ovary syndrome?

Yes, it is still possible to become pregnant with polycystic ovary syndrome. Although some women with PCOS may have a more difficult time getting pregnant, discussing the personalized treatment options to increase fertility and getting the right care could increase the chances of pregnancy.

Does having PCOS increase the likelihood of having other health problems?

Yes, a person with PCOS seems to have a higher risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, high levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and low levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL), sleep apnea, obesity, and endometrial cancer.

Home remedies for PCOS?

Diet and exercise can help treat some symptoms of PCOS, such as irregular periods and obesity. For example, studies show that losing at least 10% of your weight can help regulate periods and lose weight, which in turn improve insulin and cholesterol levels.


What causes polycystic ovary syndrome?

The exact cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is not known. Doctors and researchers believe one of the main causes of polycystic ovary syndrome is the higher levels of male hormones (androgen) found in women’s bodies that prevent the release of eggs. In addition, genetics and insulin resistance have been found to be correlated to PCOS. 

Genes: PCOS tends to run in families. If someone in your family has PCOS, it increases the chances of you developing PCOS as well.

Insulin resistance: more than half of women with PCOS have been shown to have insulin resistance. This could be harmful to the body because the cells do not respond to insulin, which can lead to high blood sugar levels. This could ultimately result in a person developing Type 2 Diabetes in the future.


What are the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome?

The symptoms could vary from person to person. However, here are the most commonly reported symptoms of PCOS:

  • Irregular or absent periods
  • Excess hair growth on face and body
  • Acne
  • Male pattern balding
  • Weight gain
  • Cysts in the ovaries
  • Skin tags or darkened skin patches on neck or underarms 


How is polycystic ovary syndrome diagnosed?

Your doctor may do one or more of the following:

  • Blood tests: ordering a lab to check your hormone levels. High levels of male hormones (androgen) could help explain your PCOS symptoms. However, the lab would also help your doctor eliminate other illnesses that could be contributing to the symptoms.
  • Presence of symptoms: Your doctor may also ask if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above.
  • Pelvic exam: your doctor may perform a pelvic exam to look for any abnormal growths in the ovaries/uterus.
  • Ultrasound: an ultrasound could help your doctor to visualize any cysts in the ovaries.


How is polycystic ovary syndrome treated?

Despite the lack of cure for this disorder, polycystic ovary syndrome is easily treatable. Here are a few of the treatment options for women with PCOS.

  • Birth control pills: taking birth control pills daily can help regulate your periods and ovulation. It could also relieve some symptoms, such as excess hair growth. However, this would not be the ideal option for a woman who’s trying to become pregnant.
  • Medications: taking certain medications, such as Metformin to help with insulin levels and Clomiphene to help with fertility, could help manage symptoms of PCOS as well as improve chances of pregnancy.
  • Ovarian drilling: some women may not respond well to the medications or see improvements with weight loss and may even consider a surgical option. Ovarian drilling is the process of using a surgical tool (e.g., laser) to make small holes in the ovaries. This can help the ovaries to ovulate each month and regulate the menstrual cycle. When a woman is able to ovulate, the chances of pregnancy increase.


Office on Women’s Health. (2019, April 1). Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/polycystic-ovary-syndrome

Watson, S. (2021, April 19). Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/polycystic-ovary-disease#diet-and-lifestyle


Medically reviewed by:

Jodi B. Nagelberg, MD, MHA

Dr. Jodi Nagelberg is an endocrinologist, with board certification in Internal Medicine. She also holds a masters in Health Administration and Policy. She joins TeleMed2U as Endocrinology Director and supports our mission to increase access to healthcare for patients everywhere.

Postgraduate: University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy Los Angeles, CA  Masters, Health Administration and Policy, 2011