Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal condition that women can get during their childbearing years. It can affect your ability to have a child (your doctor will call it your fertility). It can also:
- Stop your periods or make them hard to predict
- Cause acne and unwanted body and facial hair
- Raise your risk of other health problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure
- You can get treatments for the symptoms. And you could be able to get pregnant, although you may need to take medicines to improve your fertility.
Some women with PCOS have cysts on their ovaries. That’s why it’s called “polycystic.” But the name is misleading because many women with PCOS don’t have cysts.
What Do Hormones Have to Do With PCOS?
When you have PCOS, your reproductive hormones are out of balance. This can lead to problems with your ovaries, such as not having your period on time or not getting it.
Your body makes hormones to make different things happen. Some affect your menstrual cycle and are tied to your ability to have a baby. The hormones that play a role in PCOS include:
- Androgens. They’re often called male hormones, but women have them, too. Women with PCOS tend to have higher levels.
- Insulin. This hormone manages your blood sugar. If you have PCOS, your body might not react to insulin the way it should.
- Progesterone. With PCOS, your body may not have enough of this hormone. You might miss your periods for a long time or have trouble predicting when they’ll come.
What Are the Symptoms of PCOS?
The most common PCOS symptoms are missed, irregular, infrequent, or prolonged periods. Excess androgens can cause hair loss, hair in places you don’t want it (like on your face), and acne. Other symptoms include:
- Darkened skin or excess skin (skin tags) on the neck or in the armpits
- Mood changes
- Pelvic pain
- Weight gain around your middle