Polycystic ovary syndrome signs and symptoms often begin soon after a woman first begins having periods (menarche). In some cases, PCOS develops later during the reproductive years, for instance, in response to substantial weight gain.
PCOS has many signs — things you or your doctor can see or measure — and symptoms — things that you notice or feel. All of these can worsen with obesity. Every woman with PCOS may be affected a little differently.
To be diagnosed with the condition, your doctor looks for at least two of the following:
- Irregular periods. This is the most common characteristic. Examples include menstrual intervals longer than 35 days; fewer than eight menstrual cycles a year; failure to menstruate for four months or longer; and prolonged periods that may be scant or heavy.
- Excess androgen. Elevated levels of male hormones (androgens) may result in physical signs, such as excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), adult acne or severe adolescent acne, and male-pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia).
- Polycystic ovaries. Polycystic ovaries become enlarged and contain numerous small fluid-filled sacs which surround the eggs.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you have concerns about your menstrual periods, if you're experiencing infertility or if you have signs of androgen excess such as acne and male-pattern hair growth.
Sep. 03, 2014
- Hoffman BL, et al. Williams Gynecology. 2nd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=768. Accessed June 2, 2014.
- Barbieri RL, et al. Clinical manifestations of polycystic ovary syndrome in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 4, 2014.
- Barbieri RL, et al. Treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 4, 2014.
- AskMayoExpert. What is the initial therapy recommended for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)? Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2013.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) fact sheet. Womenshealth.gov. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html. Accessed June 4, 2014.
- Sirmans SM, et al. Epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. Clinical Epidemiology. 2014;6:1.
- Legro RS, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome: An Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2013;98:4565.
- Strauss JF, et al. Yen & Jaffe's Reproductive Endocrinology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa. Elsevier Saunders; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 11, 2014.
- Gonzalez F. Inflammation in polycystic ovary syndrome: Underpinning of insulin resistance and ovarian dysfunction. Steroids. 2012;77:300.
- Golden AK. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 25, 2014.
- Coddington CC (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 6, 2014.
- Domecq JP, et al. Lifestyle modification programs in polycystic ovary syndrome: Systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2013;98:4655.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.