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Polycystic Ovarian Disorder - Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder that results in abnormal hormone levels in a woman. In a normal ovary, a single egg develops and is released during ovulation each month. A polycystic ovary will have many eggs that are never released.

What is going on in the body?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome often begins with puberty and worsens with time. The cause of PCOS has not yet been completely identified. The symptoms of PCOS are related to an excess of the hormone androgen. This hormone can cause male features such as facial hair and male-pattern baldness in women. Polycystic ovaries may be normal in size, or they may be enlarged, with smooth, thick coverings.

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

The exact cause of PCOS is not clear. Some of the possible causes include:

  • certain medicines, such as those used for seizure disorders or mood disorders
  • an enzyme abnormality that causes an excess of the hormone androgen
  • genetic disorders that cause an increase in the production of the hormone testosterone
  • inherited metabolic disorders that interfere with the body's normal use of insulin
  • The risk of PCOS increases in women who also have one of these conditions:

  • breast cancer
  • high blood pressure
  • obesity
  • uterine cancer

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