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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: Overview and Risk Factors

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder involving excessive hormone production by the ovaries and the adrenal glands. It affects approximately 5  percent of women in the United States and usually begins during puberty. The cause is unknown.

Common symptoms include obesity, hirsutism (growth of thick hair in areas where hair is normally minimal or absent, such as the face, chest, and breasts), and absence of menstrual periods. Affected women generally have multiple ovarian cysts and may be infertile. They often have diabetes, male–pattern baldness, and acne.

Although PCOS has no specific cure, weight loss, medical treatment, and dietary changes can usually control most symptoms.

Risk Factors

  • Obesity
  • Epilepsy: Both epilepsy and the use of anti–seizure medications increase the risk of PCOS.
  • Family History: Approximately 40 percent of first–degree relatives are affected.
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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: Diagnosis >>