Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

(PCOS; Stein Leventhal Syndrome; Polyfollicular Ovarian Appearance; Hyperandrogenic Anovulation; Polycystic Ovarian Disease; PCO; PCOD)


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormone condition in women. It causes changes in the ovaries, like the growth of small fluid-filled sacs (cysts).

Ovary and Fallopian Tube

Ovarian Cyst
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


The cause is not known. Insulin resistance seems to play a role. It creates high levels of insulin. This causes the ovaries to make too much of a hormone called androgen. This can result in hair growth on the face, acne, and hair loss. It can stop ovulation from happening. It can lead to large ovaries with many cysts.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of PCOS are:

  • Other family members with PCOS
  • Obesity


Some women do not have symptoms. Others may have:

  • Problems getting pregnant
  • Irregular or no menstrual periods
  • Obesity
  • Unwanted hair growth
  • Hair loss from the scalp


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

You may have:

  • An ultrasound to view the ovaries
  • Blood tests to measure glucose, cholesterol, and hormone levels
  • Urine tests to check for pregnancy.


The goal of treatment is to target insulin resistance. The treatment you have depends on whether you want to become pregnant. Choices are:

  • Medicine to manage problems, such as abnormal hair growth, acne, and insulin resistance
  • Lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight


There are no guidelines to prevent this health problem.


The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association


The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)
Women's Health Matters


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Practice Bulletin No. 194: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Jun;131(6):e157-e171
McCartney CR, Marshall JC. Clinical Practice. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. N Engl J Med. 2016 Jul 7;375(1):54-64.
Polycystic ovary syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/polycystic-ovary-syndrome. Accessed October 19, 2020.
Polycystic ovary syndrome. Family Doctor–American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 23, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Elliot M. Levine, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 10/19/2020

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at healthlibrarysupport@ebsco.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.