Jefferson University Hospitals

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

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What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

PCOS is a hormonal disorder characterized by:

  • Irregular periods
  • Signs of high blood level of male hormones, such as heavy hair growth, hair thinning, cycstic acne, excess sweating
  • Weight gain
  • Infertility
  • Multiple small cysts on the ovaries

If PCOS is untreated, other problems may develop, such as sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes. For example,  most women with PCOS have insulin resistance, which requires the pancreas to produce more insulin to metabolize food. The high insulin, in turn, causes the ovaries to produce excess testosterone and weight gain, which may increase your blood pressure, lipid levels, and may lead to diabetes. 

However, not all women have all symptoms.

How is PCOS Diagnosed?

If you have two of the following three symptoms, you may have PCOS:

  1. Irregular menstrual periods
  2. Signs of high testosterone: hair loss and/or excess hair growth and/or cystic acne or high blood levels of testosterone
  3. Polycystic ovaries by transvaginal ultrasound

If you have been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), you are not alone. PCOS is the most common hormonal and reproductive problem affecting women of childbearing age.

Jefferson obstetricians and gynecologists as well as internists who specialize in women's health can provide accurate diagnosis and treatment of this disease. Treatment will differ depending on whether you want to become pregnant.

How is PCOS Treated?

  • Good nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • Supplements
  • Medications

Additionally, some women have had success with acupuncture.

We will work with you to achieve your goals, whether they are treating hirsutism – excessive growth of body and facial hair including the chest, stomach and back – and other problems due to high levels of male hormones, losing weight, becoming pregnant, or preventing diabetes and heart disease.

If you are not trying to become pregnant, the treatment will focus on correcting the abnormal hormone levels, weight reduction, and managing cosmetic concerns. Since hirsutism can be a symptom, our expert dermatologists can help you resolve this issue.

PCOS and Cardiovascular Health

PCOS Challenge invited a member of the Jefferson Women's Primary Care, Katherine Sherif, MD, on a recent podcast to discuss ways women and girls with PCOS can prevent and manage cardiovascular disease and improve their heart health.

Trying to Get Pregnant with PCOS

If you are trying to become pregnant, your obstetrician will work with fertility specialists at Reproductive Medicine Associates (RMA) at Jefferson to help you achieve a successful pregnancy. Recognized as international leaders for highly successful infertility treatment, our RMA at Jefferson team provides comprehensive evaluations that help direct couples to the appropriate therapies, from "low tech" to the most state-of-the-art infertility treatments available.

We are extremely proud of our pregnancy success rates with in vitro fertilization.

See Our Exceptional Pregnancy Success Rates with IVF >

Learn more about RMA at Jefferson >

Make an Appointment with a Specialist

Wish to make an appointment with an ob-gyn or internist?

Call 1-800-JEFF-NOW (1-800-533-3669) to make an appointment.

Remote Medical Second Opinion

Find out how to receive a remote medical second opinion from Dr. Katherine Sherif, Professor of Medicine and Director of Jefferson Women’s Primary Care practice.