Have you heard of the condition PCOS? Frequently the answer is no unless you are a woman who has had trouble getting pregnant. However, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) affects between 6 and 12% of US women of reproductive age.  

The Basics of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Conditions such as PCOS should be discussed with all women, not only those facing infertility problems. At Chapel Hill Gynecology, we are committed to ensuring that women have the information they need to make the best choices for their bodies. 

What is it? 

The polycystic ovarian syndrome is a result of abnormal hormone levels in women. This is frequently referring to higher levels of androgen in the system, which is a commonly male hormone that is also found in smaller levels in women. PCOS can stop ovulation and cause irregular periods that play a role in the development of infertility. It can also cause acne and issues with increased hair growth on the face and body. 

Who is at the highest risk? 

Women are at a higher risk of having PCOS if they have a mother or sister who also has the condition or has type 2 diabetes. There is also a connection between the development of PCOS and weight. While women who are overweight are not the only ones with the condition, it can play a large role in it. 

What are the risks?

There are numerous issues that can stem from the development of PCOS. These are elevated when the patient is also overweight. Patients are at risk of developing various types of diabetes, such as type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Heart disease and high blood pressure also increase the risk for women with PCOS. There have also been cases of sleep apnea and stroke at higher risk for these patients.  

How is it diagnosed? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your doctor will determine if you have polycystic ovarian syndrome by evaluating if you present with two of these three symptoms. 

  • Irregular periods or no period, caused by the lack of ovulation
  • Higher than normal levels of male hormones 
  • Multiple small cysts on the ovaries

By determining the answer to each of these characteristics, your doctor can better understand whether you have PCOS. 

How is it treated? 

Once your doctor determines if you have the polycystic ovarian syndrome, they can develop a treatment plan for your personal journey. Often, the next step is also determining whether you have type 2 diabetes if you have not been previously diagnosed already. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common forms of treatment are lifestyle changes and medication.

Lifestyle changes can mean working towards weight loss and alterations to your diet. On the other hand, the medications are determined based on what aspect you are trying to treat. Regulating your menstrual cycle, working on ovulation, and reducing hair growth would all have different medications prescribed.


The polycystic ovarian syndrome can present itself in any woman during their reproductive ages. While it often becomes a problem during stages of trying to conceive, it is something that everyone should be aware of. These basics can help you determine whether you believe you are suffering from the condition or begin to pay attention to possible changes over time. Are you noticing changes in your menstrual cycle and hair growth? Talk to a medical professional at Chapel Hill Gynecology to see if there could be something more going on. Check out our website or give us a call at (919) 960-2720 for more information.