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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that affects, at least, 1 in 10 people assigned female at birth.

It is a hormonal condition characterised by high levels of testosterone and insulin, cysts in the ovaries, irregular or no periods. 

Symptoms of PCOS

Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) vary for each person but can include:

  • irregular periods

  • missed periods

  • heavy periods

  • ovarian cysts

  • excess hair on the body or face

  • severe acne

  • male-pattern baldness

  • weight gain or difficulties with weight maintenance

  • fertility problems


Causes of PCOS

The cause of PCOS is unknown. The condition tends to run families and the main problem with PCOS is a hormonal imbalance with the ovaries making more testosterone than normal.


Diagnosing PCOS

To be diagnosed with PCOS, the Rotterdam Criteria is used and you must present with 2 of these 3 findings:

  1. Irregular periods, or no periods 

  2. High levels of testosterone shown by blood tests or symptoms

  3. Polycystic ovaries visible on ultrasound


Treatment and Management of PCOS

There is no cure for PCOS so treatment focuses on managing symptoms and this can look different for everyone and is based on the symptoms experienced.


Management of symptoms can include: 

  • regulating periods with hormonal birth control

  • stabilising blood sugars through diet and/or medication

  • surgical removal of cysts

  • PCOS friendly movement 

  • excess hair treatment such as medication, electrolysis or laser therapy

  • acne treatments which can include medication and topical agents

Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian cysts are a symptom of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) however you do not need to have polycystic ovaries to have PCOS and cysts can also be related to endometriosis. 

The definition of a cyst is a fluid-filled sac and cysts can occur anywhere in the body. With PCOS, cysts develop due to eggs not being released from the ovaries. The follicles, where the egg is contained, keep growing and become a fluid-filled cyst. Over time multiple cysts can cover the ovary.
Ovarian cysts can sometimes be detected during a pelvic examination but normally an ultrasound is necessary to confirm the diagnosis. 

Ovarian cysts do not always require treatment and often resolve on their own within 1-3 months. However, if a cyst is large, causing pain, or appears suspicious of cancer, treatment could involve surgery to remove the cyst or the entire ovary. 


Most ovarian cysts are small and don't cause symptoms. Some people may not even know they have one until they have a pelvic exam or ultrasound. If there are symptoms they may include pressure, bloating, swelling, or pain in the lower abdomen on the side where the cyst is located. If you know you have ovarian cysts or suspect you have and experience the below symptoms you should seek immediate medical attention:

  • sudden, severe pelvic pain

  • faintness, dizziness, or weakness

  • pain with fever and vomiting


Insulin and PCOS

Insulin is a hormone that controls the change of sugar, starches, and other food into energy for the body

to use or store.


With PCOS the body has a problem with insulin metabolism, known as insulin resistance, which causes the body to produce more insulin.


Excess insulin may cause the ovaries to produce too much testosterone.


Testosterone and PCOS

Testosterone is a hormone produced by the ovaries.


With PCOS the ovaries produce more testosterone than needed.


High levels of these hormones affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation and can lead to acne, excessive hair growth, and weight gain.

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