PCOS -polycystic ovary syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work.
PCOS affects millions of women in the UK.
The three main features of the condition are:
cysts that develop in your ovaries (polycystic ovaries)
your ovaries do not regularly release eggs (ovulate)
having high levels of "male hormones" called androgens in your body
You will usually be diagnosed with PCOS if you have at least two of these features.
What are polycystic ovaries?
Polycystic ovaries contain a large number of harmless cysts up to 8mm in size. The cysts are under-developed sacs in which eggs develop. Often in PCOS, these sacs are unable to release an egg, meaning ovulation doesn't take place.
It's estimated that about 1 in every 5 women in the UK has polycystic ovaries, but more than half of these have no symptoms.
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms of PCOS usually become apparent during your late teens or early twenties.
They can include:
irregular periods or no periods at all
difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate)
excessive hair growth (hirsutism) - usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
thinning hair and hair loss from the head
oily skin or acne
Polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with an increased risk of problems in later life, such as type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels.
You should speak to your GP if you think you may have PCOS.