Definition of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovaries are characterized by a huge number of follicles (more than 8) of small dimensions (less than 10 mm) that exist within the ovaries in state of rest; their amount is much higher than in normal ovaries.

Women with this kind of ovaries ovulate more or less regularly and don’t necessarily have to suffer a loss of fertility, so a pregnancy could be perfectly possible.

It is important to underline that polycystic ovary and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) are not the same disease, although they are often thought to be so.

The big difference is that women with polycystic ovary don’t normally have fertility problems, whereas women with PCOS have trouble with ovulation and, for this reason, with achieving a pregnancy.

The Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), also called Stein-Leventhal syndrome in honour of its discoverers, is one of the most frequent causes of women’s infertility and has a prevalence of 10% in women of reproductive age.

Feminine hormones are the estrogens and progesterone, still every woman also has a small quantity of androgens, typical male hormone, which increases in women with this syndrome. For this reason, their period is not adequately regulated and ovulation doesn’t take place, follicles don’t release the eggs because these don’t mature and give rise to cysts formation into the ovary.

Symptoms of PCOS

PCOS is characterised by the triad obesity, anovulation and hyperandrogenism, but generally patients have two or more symptoms among the following:

  • Cysts into the ovaries.
  • Menstrual irregularities: oligomenorrhea, amenorrhea, polymenorrhea, hypermenorrhea.
  • Anovulation: it is due to an increase in LH levels and causes infertility in 75% of the cases.
  • Hirsutism: hair growing in typical masculine parts, due to the high levels of androgens.
  • Alopecia: androgens, at the same time, cause the hair loss from the scalp, because the hair matures to soon.
  • Acne and oily skin: due to the high levels of testosterone.
  • Hormonal alterations: testosterone, prolactin and high LH, high relation LH/FSH and high androstenedione.
  • Insulin resistance: it can cause diabetes and obesity.
  • Acanthosis nigricans: darker patches on the skin of neck and underarm.
  • Dyslipidemia: cholesterol and triglyceride leves have increased, which can cause cardiovascular diseases.
  • Breast cancer and endometrium: the high levels of estrogens cause the growth of the endometrium at every cycle, so that it is more probable that the cells mutate and develop a cancer.

Not every woman has to have all these symptoms.

You can easily access detailed information about PCOS by following the index shown on the left side of this page.