Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work and can cause irregular periods. Polycystic simply means that there are multiple cysts (follicles) on the ovaries. These cysts are tiny fluid filled sacs on the ovary that grow to contain an egg. In the middle of your menstrual cycle the follicle, containing an egg, bursts to release it. Polycystic ovaries are slightly larger than normal ovaries and have twice the number of follicles.

In the majority of women, polycystic ovaries only lead to minor problems associated with their periods. However, about a quarter of women with polycystic ovaries may have problems which can range from minor to very severe. They are said to have PCOS. The symptoms vary from woman to woman with the most common being absent or very irregular periods; inappropriate or excessive hair growth; acne and greasy skin; being considerably overweight and infertility. Depression and psychological problems can also result from having PCOS.

If you think you might have PCOS, go and see your GP to discuss potential treatment options. Read about how to get the most out of your GP appointment here.

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