Description of PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), originally described in 1935 by Stein and Leventhal, is an endocrine (hormonal) disorder characterized by anovulation (lack of ovulation), hirsutism, obesity, and the presence of multiple ovarian cysts. PCOS affects about 6% of women of childbearing age in the United States and is a leading cause of infertility.

Symptoms usually present themselves during adolescence but may also begin to appear in the early to mid 20s. While not every woman with PCOS will have the same presentation, some of the common physical symptoms of PCOS include the following:

  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • Hirsutism (excessive hair growth on the face, chest, abdomen)
  • Infertility or reduced fertility
  • Obesity
  • Multiple cysts in the ovaries (seen on ultrasound only)
  • Insulin resistance
  • Acne
  • Hair loss