polycystic ovary syndrome

This is an endocrine (glandular) disorder that affects 5-10% of women. It begins about the time of puberty, but is often not diagnosed until a number of years later when fertility problems are noted. An older term for this condition is Stein-Leventhal syndrome.

The most common symptom is irregular menstrual cycles. About 80% of women with six or fewer menstrual periods per year have the syndrome. According to the Endocrine Society, of these women, 40% will already have type 2 diabetes (the "adult onset" type) or prediabetes when diagnosed.

Polycystic ovary syndrome - symptoms:

  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Infertility
  • Excess body hair (hirsutism)
  • Obesity
  • Adult or severe adolescent acne
  • Male-pattern hair thinning
  • Blood lipid abnormalities: high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol

Laboratory abnormalities (for your doctor):

  • Mildly elevated serum testosterone and/or dehydroepiandrosrterone sulfate
  • Insulin resistance
  • Increased LH:FSH ratio

Sources: The Hormone Foundation, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Foundation

A major educational campaign is underway to both better educate primary care physicians about the disorder and encourage women with suspicious symptoms to request testing for the condition.

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