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What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Updated on September 20, 2018
tobusiness profile image

Jo has been an ITU nurse at the London North West NHS Trust for 14 years. She obtained her RN at University College London Hospital.

There are times when creating a miracle requires a helping hand. The most common female infertility factor is an ovulation disorder.
There are times when creating a miracle requires a helping hand. The most common female infertility factor is an ovulation disorder.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is not a condition the average teenage girl would usually consider as they struggle with irregular menstrual periods and problems with body image. After all, puppy fat, zits and even period problems are synonymous with hormonal adolescent girls. But these symptoms should not be ignored.

PCOS can affect girls as young as 11 years old if the condition is not diagnosed and remain untreated; it can lead to serious problems in later life.

The ability to have children normally is something most women take for granted. From the first doll, her first menstrual period, her first love, there is an expectation that one day the little girl will grow into a woman and mother to have and to nurture children of her own. It's the way of nature; procreation is how the human race survives.

However; for a large number of women, this miracle of life can be an elusive dream. Around 1 in 10 women of childbearing age experience infertility due to Polycystic ovary syndrome. The symptoms of PCOS can be devastating for women with the condition.

Polycystic ovary syndrome was first reported by American gynaecologists Irving F Stein and Michael L. Leventhal and was once known as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome.

PCOS is one of the most common endocrine disorders affecting how the ovaries function. While the causes of PCOS is not completely understood, there is strong evidence that the condition may be an inherited genetic disorder. Women whose mother or sister have PCOS are more likely to have the condition.

The main underlying problem in women with PCOS is a hormonal imbalance. The ovaries produce estrogen, progesterone and androgen to regulate the menstrual cycle and ovulation.

In women with PCOS, the ovaries make more androgen than normal. Although both sexes produce androgen hormone, referred to as "male hormone" it is generally produced in different quantities.

PCOS is believed to be one of the leading causes of female subfertility, (the inability to conceive over a particular period). The condition currently affects millions of women of childbearing age, producing symptoms in around 5 to 10 percent of women in this group. As many as 5 million women in the US may have PCOS. The condition can affect the hormone levels, menstrual cycle, fertility, appearance and long-term health.


Symptoms of polycystic Ovarian Syndrome


Females with PCOS usually begin to notice the symptoms during their late teens or early twenties, and may include the following:

  • Irregular or no ovulation, (irregular or no periods or release of eggs from the ovaries) or heavy menstrual bleeding 80%

  • Infertility ( to become pregnant, a woman need to ovulate) 74%

  • Obesity or being overweight, usually around the waist 49%

  • Skin discolouration, patches of skin on the neck, arms, breast, or thighs that are thick and dark brown or black

  • Skin tag, excess flaps of skin in the area of the neck or armpits

  • Pelvic pain

  • Hirsutism (excessive hair on the face, around the nipples or on the lower abdomen) due to high levels of the male hormone androgen.

  • Alopecia (balding or thinning hair)

  • Oily skin

  • Acne
  • Cyst on the ovary diagnosed with ultrasound
  • Insulin resistance or hyperinsulinemia ( too much insulin) Studies show a link between PCOS and the hormone insulin. Insulin controls the conversion of foods like sugars and starches into energy that can be used and stored by the body. Approximately 40% of women with PCOS have a high risk of type 2 diabetes. Also, include:

  • Depression, anxiety or mood swings

  • Obstructive sleep apnoea (linked to obesity and insulin resistance)
  • Increase risk of uterine cancer
  • Increased incidence of heart disease, hypertension and increased lipid levels
  • Recurrent Miscarriage

Normal Ovarian Function

The word ovary comes from the Latin ovarium meaning “egg or nut.”

The ovaries have two primary functions, they make female sex hormones to control reproduction and sexual development, and they produce mature eggs.

Ovaries are ductless reproductive glands in which the female gamete or reproductive cells are produced and stored. They are glands of the endocrine system that produce and secrete hormone directly into the bloodstream. Ovaries consists of two small almond-shaped organs about the size of large olives, they are attached to the uterus one on each side close to the fallopian tube in the lower abdomen. Ovaries are filled with follicles (fluid-fill sacs) where the egg or female gamete cell grows and matures

Scientists believe that women are born with their lifetime supply of gametes. The typical female ovaries are said to contain around 1 to 2 million eggs at birth. However; there is a continuous decline in the total amount of eggs produced each month. By the time a girl reaches puberty, only around 25% of her lifetime total pool of eggs remains, approximately 300,000. The number of eggs continues to drop, depleting the entire egg supply over the next 30 to 40 years, or the onset of the menopause.

Inside the ovaries are follicles, each follicle contains one immature egg surrounded by hundreds of other follicle cells. Each month during ovulation a follicle in one ovary releases a single mature egg for possible fertilization. If the follicle fails to break open to release an egg, fluids remain in the follicle to form what is known as a follicular cyst.

Ovulation occurs in response to hormones. Growth and development of the follicles are driven by two gonadotrophic hormones called Luteinizing hormone or LH, and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH).

The tiny pituitary gland at the base of the brain produces LH and FSH, which stimulate the follicle to grow and produce the two primary female sex hormones, estrogen, and progesterone.

Estrogen and progesterone are steroids that bind to receptors in the nuclei of cells to affect their behaviour. Both these hormones swing dramatically across the female's menstrual cycle. The part of the cycle leading up to ovulation is known as the follicular phase, characterized by an initial rise in FSH and LH in response to gonadotropic releasing hormone (GnRH) by the hypothalamus. The growth of the ovarian follicle last about 14 days and ends just before ovulation.

FSH stimulates follicle cells to make a gradually increasing quantity of estrogen during this phase. Estrogen stimulates follicle cells to divide and to increase eventually in size for ovulation.

As the estrogen levels in the blood increases, the hormone exerts a positive effect on the pituitary, causing it to respond by releasing small quantities of LH. The hormone stimulates follicle cells to make small amounts of the progesterone necessary for ovulation.

Androgen is the generic term given to any hormone that directly or indirectly produces male characteristic as seen in women with PCOS.

The principal androgen hormone in the body is testosterone, but other hormones that can easily be converted to testosterone are also available.

There are three sources of androgen in women, the ovary, the adrenal gland and the body fat. The body fat is highly significant in women with PCOS who are also overweight.

Androgen is critical in the ovulatory process. In normal ovulation, androstenedione is produced in the ovarian cells that surround the developing follicle before moving to the cells of the follicles itself. Once there, it is converted to estradiol, the predominant sex hormone found in the female.

In women with PCOS, the ovarian cells around the follicle produce an excess of androstenedione. If the follicle fails to develop normally, the androstenedione cannot be converted into estradiol. Instead, the body will respond by converting the androstenedione into testosterone, which then locks the women into a vicious cycle. If she fails to ovulate or do not ovulate properly, she will begin to produce excess androgen that blocks the ovulatory process becoming a self-perpetuating process.

Treatment For PCOS Ten Health Tips

PCOS Treatment

There is no real cure for polycystic ovary syndrome, but the symptoms can be managed. Lifestyle changes are often recommended by doctors and healthcare professionals.

Many women with the condition have found that a combination of treatments helps, certain lifestyle changes, traditional medication and or herbal supplements can contribute to relieving the symptoms of PCOS. Women may respond differently to treatment, something that works well for some women may not function as well for others, but lifestyle changes like diet and exercise can make a huge difference. Treatment for PCOS include:

Regular exercise in conjunction with a healthy weight loss diet, this is one of the most effective means of improving PCOS symptoms particularly in women who are obese or overweight.

Natural Remedies like D-chiro-inositol or DCI found in buckwheat have been shown to reduce the concentration of insulin and levels of androgen circulating in the blood to relieve symptoms of PCOS. See table below for more Natural remedies to relieve the symptoms of PCOS.


For irregular and or absent periods, the oral contraceptive pill is probably the most commonly prescribed medication. However; while the pill helps to induce regular menstrual cycle, it is not the answer for women who are trying to conceive. Progesterone tablets can also be given regularly or intermittently.

Fertility Problems

Most women with PCOS can become pregnant with treatment. The first line of medical treatment is with drugs that enable ovulation such as:

Metformin works by suppressing the production of glucose by the liver and is commonly used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, it is also found to be useful in inducing ovulation in women with infertility due to PCOS. Clomifene, a selective estrogen receptor modulator is also offered to women with PCOS, women are offered one of the drugs or a combination of both. Individuals who fail to conceive despite taking metformin and clomifene may be offered gonadotrophins, a fertility drug containing follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). However; there is a risk of hyperstimulation of the ovaries, with this drug that can lead to multiple pregnancies.

Laparoscopic ovarian drilling is more of a last resort; it is a surgical procedure that is sometimes performed to trigger ovulation in women with PCOS. The procedure uses electrocautery ( direct or alternating current is passed through an electrode to generate heat), laser or biopsy needles to destroy part of the ovaries to restore regular ovulation cycles.

Natural Remedy To Minimize Symptoms Of PCOD

Natural Remedy
Irregular or No Menstrual Cycle
Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex Agnus-Castus)
One Of The Most Powerful Herb For Women's Fertility And Menstrual Cycle. Normalise Follicle Stimulating Luteinizing Hormone,
Male Pattern Baldness (Hair Loss)
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza Glabra)
Helps To Maintain Good Hormone Production and Release
Hirsutism (Excess Hair Growth
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa Repens)
Has been found to inhibit DHT ( Male hormone) production which may help prevent hirsutism in women with PCOS.
Dandelion Root
Contains several minerals that may help to alleviate skin conditions
Insulin Resistance
Cinnamon (Cinnamomun ssp.)
A pilot study done in 2007 showed that cinnamon can greatly reduce insulin resistance in women with PCOS.
High Cholesterol
Fengugreek (Methi, Trigonella foenum-graecum)
Help to promote weight loss, lowers LDL ( bad cholesterol) and increases HDL (good cholesterol). Supports healthy heart functioning, and improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.
Studies done on D-chiro-Inositol (DCI) also referred to as Isomers found in buckwheat farinetta and available as a nutrient supplement showed that women with PCOS, who were given DCI experience significant benefits when compared to controlled group.

PCOS Diet Plan

Maintain Hydration

Consult Your Doctor, Gynaecologist or Endocrinologist

Minimize the symptoms of PCOS by eating healthy foods

Raw Food to Cure PCOS


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    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Susan, Thank you for taking a look at this, I hope the natural treatment prove to be the answer for your friend. Study shows that eating foods that can control the release of insulin such as whole meal bread, brown rice, nuts, pulses, green vegetables and fruits helps. Taking a supplement of saw Palmetto herb can also improve the symptoms.

      Have a lovely day, my best to you.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Lots of excellent information here. Someone close to me is using natural treatment to help her PCOS. Hopefully she'll have good success. Thanks for sharing.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi sujaya venkatesh, visit and comment much appreciated. My best to you.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      ChitrangadaSharan, I'm so glad that you found this information useful. The symptoms of PCOS can closely mimic the normal hormonal changes occurring in teenage girls, and that can make diagnosis difficult indeed. Thank you so much for taking the time and for this insightful comment, much appreciated. Take care and my very best to you.

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 

      6 years ago

      very useful hub

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      6 years ago from New Delhi, India

      This is a very informative hub on PCOS!

      Many of my doubts have been cleared with the detailed information you have provided. Yes, I have seen such cases in my family and I had no idea about this symptom, before diagnosis. Anyone would think getting acne or weight gain are normal for a teenage girl. But it is not. If these are prolonged, one must get it medically examined.

      Great article and will be helpful to many suffering from PCOS.

      Voted up and shared on HP and twitter!

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Cecile, the symptoms of PCOS can be very difficult to cope with, especially for teenagers who are already trying to deal with body image problems at a time when there is so much pressure to look perfect. Thank you for stopping by, hope you're having a lovely weekend, my best to you.

    • cecileportilla profile image

      Cecile Portilla 

      6 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Hello tobusiness:

      This is a very informative hub on PCOS. This should be helpful to many teens and women of child bearing age who do not usually make routine visits to doctors unless they are very ill. Voted up!

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Tinatiney, thank you for stopping by and taking a look, I hope you found it useful. Take care and my best to you.

    • tinatincy profile image


      6 years ago from Zagreb

      This is a great hub for all of us suffering from the codition!!

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Flourish, you could well imagine how demoralizing this condition would be for a self-conscious teen going through those awkward years. The ovarian drilling does sound pretty nasty, but it is only used as a last resort. :) Yikes indeed.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Wow, this was detailed and revealing. The photo of Hirsutism was pretty shocking. I have seen one woman who looked like that and thought she was trying to go transgender. (Who knows what was going on?) And the thought of laparoscopic ovarian drilling -- oooh yikes.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      quildon, so lovely to see you! Yes, there are remedies for PCOS. However; the condition is often missed early on, dismissed as hormonal pre-teen problems that will soon pass. Thank you for taking a look, much appreciated and my best to you.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 

      6 years ago from Florida

      I learned so much in this detailed biology lesson you have given us. Thank God that there are remedies for this unfortunate condition. Voted up and useful.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Frank, thanks for stopping by and for the terrific comment, much appreciated. Take care now.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      6 years ago from Shelton

      tobusiness what an incredible informative medical hub... well done and well written

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Eddy, thank you for the great comment and the visit. Much appreciated.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      Thank you Jo for sharing this brilliant hub; I have learnt so much about PCOS and I know this wonderful hub will benefit so many more.

      Voting up, sharing and wishing you a great day Jo.



    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Ruby, You're so right; the human body is incredible, but when it goes wrong, it could be pretty nasty. I guess the more we understand it, the more use we'll get from it. :) For infertility, IVF has helped a lot of women, but it doesn't work for some. Thank you for taking a look at this, have a lovely day and my best to you.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Ms Dora, yes indeed, many women are suffering from PCOS, some don't realise it until they begin to try for a baby. Also, the longer the condition goes untreated the more severe the symptoms. Thank you so much for taking a look at this, much appreciated.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I needed a refresher course and you certainly provided it. Isn't the human body remarkable? How everything works together, but when something goes awry the whole body suffers. I know one woman who has this problem, and wouldn't you know, she wanted a child so badly, but never conceived. Thank you for a well written article..Cheers.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Quite a comprehensive presentation on PCOS. This is a topic which may be important to some women who do not even know about it. Hope they find this very important information.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Devika, I'm always happy when someone comments that they've learn something new from one of my hub. Thank you for reading and for the great comment.

      Have a lovely day and my best to you as always.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Phoebe, how nice to see you!! Thanks for reading this, I do enjoy writing hubs that can help to spread awareness, and maybe even help someone. I do appreciate your generous comment. Take care and my best to you.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Phoebe, how nice to see you!! Thanks for reading this, I do enjoy writing hubs that can help to spread awareness, and maybe even help someone. I do appreciate your generous comment. Take care and my best to you.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Faith, I hope you're not working too hard, thanks for taking a look at this and sharing, much appreciated.

      PCOS is something that can be easily missed in youngsters, and the symptoms can lead to teen depression and so much more, so it's good to know what the signs are to help where possible. Have a wonderful day and my best to you as always.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Jackie, yes, some women do have a very hard time of it, our hormones can really mess us up, and at a time when we are most vulnerable. Thank you for stopping by, always good to see you, take care now.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Jamie, thank you for stopping by, you've reminded me that I owe you a visit. I read one of your recent article but before I could leave a comment I was distracted and didn't get back. Thank you for reading this. You're right of course, ART have given so many women the chance to have children they would not otherwise be able to conceived, but there are some poor responders, and for some women this can be a long protracted road that can still lead to disappointments. It's far better to catch PCOS before the damage is done, in many cases it is as simple as losing weight and eating healthily. I appreciate the insightful comment, always a pleasure to see you, I hope the family is doing well.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Good morning Bill, I saw your comment last night but it was much too late to start responding. Thanks for taking a look, your guess would be right. It is very difficult for teenagers and their parents to distinguish between the normal signs of hormonal changes and PCOS, many of the symptoms are similar and not all women with the condition presents in the same way, this makes it even more complicated. As always, lovely to see you, hope you're having a very productive day and my best to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I had no idea of Polycystic ovary syndrome you have created an informative hub on this topic your facts are to the point and thoroughly researched. One of your best hubs in detail and well approached. Voted up, useful and interesting,

    • profile image

      Phoebe Pike 

      6 years ago

      Another highly informative and interesting hub. Awesome job.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      6 years ago from southern USA

      Brilliant and most informative hub here dear Jo! I have never heard of such. I always learn a lot too from all of your hubs. Up and more and, tweeting and pinning, etc after I arrive home. All should read this important hub! Blessings, Faith Reaper

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      6 years ago from the beautiful south

      What women go through; and this is just one of them. Great info and well done as always. ^

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 

      6 years ago from Reno NV

      Congratulations on a hub well done! Due to breakthroughs in ART pregnancy can occur with PCOS with a little help from a fertility specialist. I hope you are well. Jamie

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I sure learn a lot from you. I had never heard of this and I would venture to guess a great many teens have never heard of it as well. Valuable information for sure, Jo. Well done!

      Sleep well and enjoy the rest of your week.



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