Almost one out of every 10 teen girls and young women has polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This condition is a hormone imbalance in which the ovaries produce excessive amounts of male hormones such as testosterone. Normally the ovaries produce very small amounts, but in PCOS, they make more. This can cause irregular periods, unwanted hair growth, and acne.
Treatment is important as teens and women with PCOS also are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol. Girls with PCOS are also at a higher risk of infertility and endometrial hyperplasia (thickening of the lining of the uterus) when they are older.
A key sign of PCOS is irregular or missed periods because the effects of the condition on the ovaries can make a girl stop ovulating. But other symptoms can include:
If your doctor suspects your daughter has PCOS, your doctor will do a physical exam to check blood pressure, height and weight, will look at hair growth on the body and will check for patches of darkened skin. Your doctor will also ask you about your daughter’s health, her medicines and her menstrual cycle, and about whether there’s a family history of PCOS.
Additional tests may include:
The exact cause is not known, but there appears to be a genetic component as it tends to run in families. Teens with PCOS are also found to have increased levels of male hormones and resistance to insulin. Although there is no cure for PCOS, effective treatment can control and eliminate many symptoms.
Although there is no cure for PCOS, treatments are effective and can include one or more of the following: