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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

A condition in which women have high levels of male hormones, increasing the risk of irregular or absent menstrual cycles, infertility, obesity, ovarian cysts, heart disease, and diabetes. PCOS is associated with insulin resistance.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

About PCOS

PCOS is a set of symptoms that result from a hormonal imbalance affecting women and girls of childbearing age. Women with PCOS usually have at least two of the following three conditions:

Some women diagnosed with PCOS have the first two conditions listed above as well as other symptoms of PCOS but do not have cysts on their ovaries.

PCOS is the most common cause of anovulatory (pronounced an-OV-yuh-luh-tawr-ee) infertility, meaning that the infertility results from the absence of ovulation, the process that releases a mature egg from the ovary every month. Many women don't find out that they have PCOS until they have trouble getting pregnant...Read more about PCOS NIH - National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

The effect of antidepressants for women with polycystic ovary syndrome

The prevalence of depression in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is high; a study has shown it to be four times that of women without PCOS. Therefore, systematic evaluation of the effectiveness and safety of antidepressants for women with PCOS is important. We found no evidence to support the use or non‐use of antidepressants in women with PCOS, with or without depression. Well‐designed and well‐conducted randomised controlled trials with double blinding should be conducted.

Statins for the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may suffer from irregular periods, excessive hair growth (hirsutism) and acne (pimples). High levels of serum androgens (male hormone) are one of the main features of PCOS. There is no good evidence from this review that statins improve menstrual regularity, spontaneous ovulation rate, hirsutism or acne, either alone or in combination with the combined oral contraceptive pill. There is also no good evidence that statins have a beneficial effect on hirsutism or acne (pimples) associated with PCOS. In women with PCOS, statins are effective in reducing serum androgen levels and decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL), but statins are not effective in reducing fasting insulin or insulin resistance. There is no good evidence available on the long‐term use of statins (alone or in combination) for the management of PCOS.

Pulsatile gonadotrophin releasing hormone for ovulation induction in subfertility associated with polycystic ovary syndrome

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome have menstrual disorders caused by the absence of ovulation. About 20% of women will not ovulate on clomiphene citrate, the primary treatment option. These women can be treated with a surgical procedure like laparoscopic electrocautery of the ovaries or by ovulation induction with gonadotrophins or gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH). In normal menstrual cycles, GnRH is released in a regular pulsatile interval. A portable pump can be used to mimic this pulse to help these women to ovulate and hopefully to get pregnant. The review of trials did not find enough evidence to show the effectiveness of pulsatile GnRH in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

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Summaries for consumers

The effect of antidepressants for women with polycystic ovary syndrome

The prevalence of depression in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is high; a study has shown it to be four times that of women without PCOS. Therefore, systematic evaluation of the effectiveness and safety of antidepressants for women with PCOS is important. We found no evidence to support the use or non‐use of antidepressants in women with PCOS, with or without depression. Well‐designed and well‐conducted randomised controlled trials with double blinding should be conducted.

Statins for the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may suffer from irregular periods, excessive hair growth (hirsutism) and acne (pimples). High levels of serum androgens (male hormone) are one of the main features of PCOS. There is no good evidence from this review that statins improve menstrual regularity, spontaneous ovulation rate, hirsutism or acne, either alone or in combination with the combined oral contraceptive pill. There is also no good evidence that statins have a beneficial effect on hirsutism or acne (pimples) associated with PCOS. In women with PCOS, statins are effective in reducing serum androgen levels and decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL), but statins are not effective in reducing fasting insulin or insulin resistance. There is no good evidence available on the long‐term use of statins (alone or in combination) for the management of PCOS.

Pulsatile gonadotrophin releasing hormone for ovulation induction in subfertility associated with polycystic ovary syndrome

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome have menstrual disorders caused by the absence of ovulation. About 20% of women will not ovulate on clomiphene citrate, the primary treatment option. These women can be treated with a surgical procedure like laparoscopic electrocautery of the ovaries or by ovulation induction with gonadotrophins or gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH). In normal menstrual cycles, GnRH is released in a regular pulsatile interval. A portable pump can be used to mimic this pulse to help these women to ovulate and hopefully to get pregnant. The review of trials did not find enough evidence to show the effectiveness of pulsatile GnRH in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

See all (25)

More about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Photo of a young adult woman

Also called: Polycystic ovarian syndrome, Stein-Leventhal Syndrome

See Also: Metabolic Syndrome, Menstrual Cycle, Infertility, Dysmenorrhea

Other terms to know:
Cysts, Non-Functional Ovarian Cysts, Ovarian Cysts

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