What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

It is estimated that 1 in 3 women in the UK have multiple cysts on their ovaries. The cysts are actually small multiple poorly developed follicles. A polycystic ovary is defined as 10 or more follicles (the cysts) seen on an ovary using an ultrasound scan. Approximately one third of the women with cysts on their ovaries have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). In the UK, polycystic ovarian syndrome is defined as polycystic ovaries with one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Hirsutism
  • Male-pattern baldness
  • Acne
  • Oligomenorrhoea (irregularity of menstruation) or amenorrhoea (absence of menstruation)
  • Obesity
  • Raised serum concentrations of testosterone or luteinising hormone (LH)

There are often metabolic abnormalities associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome that put some women at risk of developing diabetes mellitus.