What is polycystic ovary syndrome?

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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most prevalent hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age (between 6-20% depending on the criteria considered). It is manifested by irregular periods or the absence of menstruation, increased levels of male hormones and the presence of a greater number of follicles in the ovaries (structures in which the eggs develop) which prevents the release of eggs regularly.

PCOS is defined as a combination of: 

  • Hyperandrogenism. Increase in androgens (male hormones) in the blood and/or symptoms associated with this increase such as excess hair, acne, alopecia, voice tone.  
  • Ovulatory dysfunction. This manifests as a complete absence of menstruation (amenorrhoea) or irregular menstrual cycles.  
  • Polycystic ovary morphology by ultrasound. This is characterised by an increase in the volume and number of follicles (the structures in which eggs develop). 

Patients with PCOS are more likely to be obese and experience certain complications in the mid- and long-term. However, the disease is characterised by great heterogeneity, both in terms of its origins as well as in the presentation of symptoms and long-term consequences. 

Substantiated information by:

Gemma Casals i Soler

Published: 28 May 2021
Updated: 28 May 2021

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