PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.  PCOS is a serious condition which can affect a woman in a number of areas, including her menstrual cycle, hormones, fertility, heart, blood pressure, insulin production, blood vessels and appearance.  Women who have PCOS have high levels of androgens.  They have an irregular menstrual cycle or no menstrual cycle.  They typically have fluid-filled sacs, called cysts, on their ovaries.  PCOS is the most common hormonal reproductive problem in women of childbearing age.  Somewhere between 5 and 10% of women of childbearing age have PCOS.

There is no single test to diagnose PCOS.  Your doctor will take a medical history and perform a physical exam.  This exam may include an ultrasound, checking your hormone levels, and measure glucose levels in the blood.  At the physical exam the doctor will want to evaluate the areas of increased hair growth, so try to allow the natural hair growth for a few days before the visit. During a pelvic exam, the ovaries may be enlarged or swollen by the increased number of small cysts. This can be seen more easily by vaginal ultrasound, or screening, to examine the ovaries for cysts and the endometrium. The endometrium is the lining of the uterus. The uterine lining may become thicker if there has not been a regular period.

Symptoms of PCOS may include:

–  infertility due to not ovulating

–  acne, oily skin or dandruff

–  type 2 diabetes

–  pelvic pain

–  excessive snoring and breathing stops while sleeping

–  sleep apnea

–  high blood pressure

–  infrequent or no periods

–  irregular bleeding

–  increased growth of body hair, including hair on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, or toes

–  weight gain or obesity, usually carrying extra weight around the waist

–  high cholesterol

–  male-pattern baldness or thinning hair

–  patches of thickened and dark brown or black skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs

–  skin tags, or tiny excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area

How is PCOS diagnosed?