Polycystic ovarian syndrome is better known as PCOS.  It is a complex condition that affects the ovaries. Each woman has two ovaries situated near the womb, or uterus, and these produce eggs.  When an egg develops under the influence of hormones a follicle grows around the egg.  This is a fluid filled sac.  In PCOS the ovaries are bigger than usual and there are a larger number of follicles than in the average ovary. Ovaries in PCOS are two to five times larger than normal and are covered by thick, white tough tissue.  The follicles, or cysts, do not grow to full maturity and often do not produce eggs that are capable of being fertilised.  This has the consequence that the woman does not ovulate regularly, which means she does not produce and release a monthly egg.  Therefore she may be less fertile.  For the same reasons periods will not be regular and there may be very long gaps between them. 


This condition is fairly common amongst infertile women and accounts for three quarters of women who have an ovulation problem.  Some women will not know that they have the condition and the abnormal ovaries may be seen by chance when an ultrasound scan is done for another reason.  Other features can include acne, obesity, excess hair growth, hormone imbalances and an association with Type 2 diabetes. More severe associations include strokes, heart attacks and some cancers.

©Stadn Ltd

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