Prepared by Leslie Carol Botha
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder characterized by laboratory and/or clinical findings of higher levels of androgens (male sex hormones), difficulty with ovulating and menstrual irregularity, and polycystic appearance to ovaries on ultrasound. Its prevalence is nearly 10 percent among reproductive age women and may represent the largest underappreciated segment of the female population at risk for cardiovascular disease.
Most women suffering from PCOS present with one or more of the following symptoms or characteristics: irregular periods, excessive facial hair, alopecia (loss of hair), high levels of androgens or specific hormones on lab testing, and obesity, although as many as 20 percent of women with PCOS are not obese. Many women also present with a variety of menstrual related complaints, from not having a period for years to heavy menstrual bleeding. Infertility is also a common finding among PCOS sufferers and the diagnosis is often made during an infertility evaluation.