Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition in female patients associated with enlarged ovaries as well as a lack of ovulation and an overproduction of male sex hormones.

About Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Androgens and estrogens are the two major classes of sex hormone your body produces. Individuals assigned male at birth typically produce higher levels of androgens, and individuals assigned female at birth have higher estrogen levels. While the exact cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is unknown, the condition often involves elevated androgen levels in female patients.

The name “polycystic ovary syndrome” does not refer to large ovarian cysts but rather to polycystic ovaries, a common characteristic of PCOS in which ovarian follicles are enlarged and do not readily release eggs.

Many patients with PCOS experience insulin resistance or other metabolic irregularities. The condition can also increase your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea, or cancer.

Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

The varying symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome are caused by hormonal imbalances and/or resulting metabolic abnormalities. Symptoms typically first emerge in your teens or early 20s.

Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome may include:

  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Infertility
  • Hirsutism (excessive body hair)
  • Alopecia (excessive hair loss)
  • Weight gain
  • Acne

Risk Factors for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome is thought to affect 6-10% of the female population. Both genetic and environmental factors may contribute to condition onset.

Risk factors for polycystic ovary syndrome may include:

  • Family history
  • Lifestyle: While PCOS often is related to weight gain, obesity can aggravate the condition and an active lifestyle can help you manage symptoms
  • Comorbid conditions: Diabetes (Type 1, Type 2, and gestational) and epilepsy are associated with higher prevalence of PCOS

Treating Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

There is no cure for polycystic ovary syndrome, but medication can be used to manage the condition. Oral contraceptive medication can regulate your menstrual cycle and hormone levels. Another medication, spironolactone, can block androgens from acting on cells. Additionally, lifestyle changes may be recommended to alleviate your symptoms. Your doctor will work with you to determine the best course of treatment.

Care Team Approach

Patients are cared for by a dedicated multidisciplinary care team, meaning you will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines. Our board-certified obstetricians and gynecologists have extensive experience and work alongside a team of women’s health experts, including advanced practice providers, dietitians, social workers, and more, providing unparalleled care for patients every step of the way.

If a higher level of care is needed to treat your condition, we offer access to Maternal-Fetal Medicine (high-risk obstetrical care), Comprehensive Fetal Care, Gynecologic Oncology, Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery, Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy, and Urogynecology services.

We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to identify new therapies to improve treatment outcomes. We are committed to communicating and coordinating your care with referring physicians and other partners in the community to ensure that we are providing you with comprehensive, whole-person care.

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