Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Cause, Symptoms, and Treatments

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) affects millions of women worldwide. Here's everything you need to know about this disease.
PCOS text on white jigsaw puzzle over pink background. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Health Care concept.

One of the most common causes of infertility, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), affects up to 12% of reproductive-age women in the United States. Not only is it a literal pain in the ovaries, but it can also lead to plenty of nasty side effects in our bodies. Here’s what you need to know about PCOS, including the cause, symptoms, and how to manage it.

Disclosure: This post on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is for informational purposes and to get you up to speed. Of course, you know your body the best of anyone, so please feel free to discuss PCOS with your physical or gynecologist should you have further questions.

My Personal Experience 

A little bit about me and ovarian complications: roughly 12 years ago, I visited my gynecologist with a complaint of pain in my right ovary, so I know the pain that having fluid around them feels like—not pleasant at all. By the time my surgery was scheduled, a dermoid tumor completely overcame my ovary, and I had to have it removed, eventually requiring a full hysterectomy. The reason for my journey story is so you’ll not wait around but instead see your doctor with any pain you may have.

To those that have PCOS or ovarian cysts, my heart goes out to you.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) 101

Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS vector illustration. Labeled internal reproductive disease comparison scheme with healthy and sick female organs. Set of anatomical symptoms due to elevated androgens

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is a problem that occurs during a woman’s reproductive years that’s caused by hormones. Doctors still don’t know the exact cause of the syndrome but are aware that genetic and environmental factors definitely play a role. Gene mutations are thought to be a biggie as it tends to run in families. Women with PCOS may have a higher amount of the hormone androgen in their bodies, which can cause them to have irregular periods.

In a nutshell, small sacs containing fluids (cysts) surround the outer edges of the ovaries that contain immature eggs called follicles. In the case of this syndrome, these follicles don’t release the eggs contained within.

Being Diagnosed with PCOS

A model of the female reproductive system in the background is a girl in a doctor s office with irregular periods. The concept of problems for women with a period of menstruation, hypomenorrhea

While symptoms sometimes begin with the first menstruation, PCOS can occur well after it occurs. Symptoms vary from woman to woman and can be more or less intense. To get the official diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, you’ll need to have two out of three of the following symptoms:

  • Polycystic Ovaries: Because there are follicles surrounding the ovary with PCOS, the ovaries themselves are generally larger than those without. This can cause the ovaries to function improperly.
  • Irregular Period: Having irregular periods means you aren’t having them regularly or are having them last for way too long. This can cause trouble with getting pregnant.
  • Excess Androgen: Causing an increase in both facial and body hair, androgen has been shown to cause acne and even male pattern baldness. 


Hands holding uterus, female reproductive system , woman health, PCOS, gynecologic and cervix cancer concept

PCOS comes with a range of features and symptoms:

  • Ovaries that are larger than normal and/or have cysts
  • Abdominal bloating and pelvic pain
  • Excess body hair on the chest, back, and stomach
  • Thinning hair, including male pattern baldness
  • Skin tags, especially on the neck or in the armpits
  • Darker skin or thickened patches of skin under the breast area, back of the neck, or in the armpits
  • Increase in weight, particularly noticeable around the stomach area
  • Acne and oily skin
  • Infertility
  • Missed, irregular, or extremely light periods

Of course, these symptoms can be related to other syndromes and diseases, so please check with your doctor before self-diagnosing.

As for the complications of the disease, there are several of those as well:

  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage, premature birth
  • Depression, anxiety, and eating disorders
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Sleep apnea
  • Prediabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis—a severe liver inflammation caused by fat buildup in the liver
  • Metabolic syndrome, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and unhealthy cholesterol or triglyceride levels. These increase your risk of heart and blood vessel disease.
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure

PCOS Treatments

At this time, there is no cure for PCOS. But, research has shown there are a few treatments that can help reduce both pain and ease symptoms, depending on your age, health, and symptom severity.

  • Ovulation-Causing Medications: These stimulate the ovaries to naturally release eggs, lessening cysts forming around the ovaries. There is a risk with taking them, though. There’s an increased chance of having more than one egg become fertile and having multiple births.
  • Weight Loss: Lowering your body weight and fat can lessen symptoms. As an added benefit, you’ll be a healthier you.
  • Birth Control Pills: By regulating the monthly menstrual cycle, they can also help with acne and decrease androgen.
  • Acne Medications: Help with acne caused by an increase in androgen
  • Hair Growth Medications: Help with hair loss and male pattern baldness
  • Diabetic Medication: Used to help with insulin resistance, PCOS is the root cause. Additionally, it may help to keep your androgen level lower.

Read More:

Sex After a Hysterectomy – Do You Know These Changes?

The Reality of Menopause: Exploring the Great Unknown

How Hormones Affect Your Hair


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