What is polycystic ovarian syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance that occurs when your ovaries (the organ that produces and releases eggs) create excess hormones. If you have PCOS, your ovaries produce unusually high levels of hormones called androgens. This causes your reproductive hormones to become imbalanced. As a result, people with PCOS often have irregular menstrual cycles, missed periods and unpredictable ovulation. Small follicle cysts (fluid-filled sacs with immature eggs) may be visible on your ovaries on ultrasound due to lack of ovulation (anovulation). However, despite the name “polycystic,” you don’t need to have cysts on your ovaries to have PCOS. The ovarian cysts aren’t dangerous or painful.
What are the signs of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?
The most common signs and symptoms of PCOS include:
What is the main cause of PCOS?
- Higher levels of male hormones called androgens: High androgen levels prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs, which causes irregular menstrual cycles. Irregular ovulation can also cause small, fluid-filled sacs to develop on your ovaries. High androgen also causes acne and excess hair growth in women and people AFAB.
- Insulin resistance: An increase in insulin levels causes your ovaries to make and release male hormones (androgens). Increased male hormones suppress ovulation and contribute to other symptoms of PCOS. Insulin helps your body process glucose (sugar) and use it for energy. Insulin resistance means your body doesn’t process insulin correctly, leading to high glucose levels in your blood.
- Low–grade inflammation: People with PCOS tend to have chronic low-grade inflammation. Your healthcare provider can perform blood tests that measure levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and white blood cells, which can indicate the level of inflammation in your body.
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