Polycystic ovary syndrome, more commonly known as PCOS, is thought to be the most common endocrine disorder found in people with ovaries. Common symptoms include irregular menstrual cycles, hirsutism, hair thinning or loss and acne, as well as an increased risk of other conditions including insulin resistance and infertility.
Individuals tend to notice signs and symptoms of PCOS during their late teens to early 20s, however, it can affect anyone of reproductive age. Due to the variety of symptoms, and difference in presentation in every individual, diagnosis of the condition may be challenging.
If you are presenting with symptoms of PCOS, a healthcare professional will typically look to rule out any other conditions. They will measure hormone levels, and potentially carry out ultrasound scans. To be diagnosed with PCOS, after ruling out any other potential causes, an individual must meet 2 of the following 3 criteria:
• Irregular or infrequent periods
• High levels of androgens such as testosterone, identified in blood levels
• Polycystic ovaries, identified by scans
How many people have PCOS?
Whilst it is difficult to know exactly how many women have PCOS, in the UK it is believed to affect 1 in every 10 people with ovaries in the UK. Worldwide, PCOS is generally thought to affect between 4 and 20%, however, currently, it is unknown for specific subpopulations based on geographical locations and race or ethnicity, with further research required.
If you are concerned you may have PCOS, it is important to visit a healthcare professional, to receive a diagnosis and recommended treatment to help manage your symptoms.