Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) | OB-GYN


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is linked to infertility, diabetes, menstrual problems and other issues. Our women’s health specialists provide complete care for all PCOS symptoms.

Medically reviewed by Clara Paik, M.D. on Sep. 14, 2023.

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Care, Diagnosis and Treatments for PCOS

PCOS symptom management often requires a team approach. You may receive care from UC Davis Health OB-GYNs and endocrinologists. We also have a pediatric PCOS Clinic for teens.


What Is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a type of hormonal and endocrine disorder. High levels of androgen, a sex hormone, cause:

  • Infertility
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Multiple ovarian cysts (polycystic)
  • Skin and hair changes
  • Weight gain

PCOS also increases your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems and other conditions.



PCOS Symptoms

PCOS symptoms typically appear during the teen years. But the condition affects everyone differently. Some women don’t know they have PCOS until they try to get pregnant.

Common Symptoms

Signs of PCOS include:

  • Excess hair on your face, chest or thighs (hirsutism)
  • Infertility
  • Irregular periods
  • Obesity
  • Oily skin and severe acne
  • Velvety, thick, darkened skin (acanthosis nigricans)

PCOS Causes and Risk Factors

People with PCOS make too much androgen hormones. An overproduction of androgen can stop ovulation, leading to irregular periods and infertility, among other problems.

Experts aren’t sure why this happens. However, certain factors may make you more prone to PCOS, including:

Biological Sex and Age

PCOS is a lifelong condition. Symptoms are most severe when a woman is between the ages of 15 and 44. These are typically a woman’s reproductive years.


Your risk for PCOS increases if you, your mother or sister have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes (insulin resistance).

Family History

You are more likely to have PCOS if your mother, sister or another close relative has the condition.


Having excess weight or obesity may increase your risk. However, people with average weight also get PCOS.


Diagnosing PCOS

Your provider may make an initial PCOS diagnosis based on your symptoms and family history.

Certain tests can help confirm the diagnosis, including:

  • Physical exam, including a pelvic exam to look for a cause for irregular periods
  • Blood and urine tests to measure hormone and blood sugar (glucose) levels
  • Abdominal-pelvic ultrasound to look for ovarian cysts and check the thickness of your uterine lining

PCOS Treatments

PCOS treatments depend on your age, symptoms and pregnancy plans. We offer a full range of PCOS treatments:

Fertility Treatments

High androgen levels affect ovulation, making PCOS a top cause of infertility. Our reproductive health and infertility experts can help you conceive.


If you aren’t trying to conceive, hormonal birth control, such as the pill, can lower androgen levels and make your periods more regular. You may also need medications for diabetes, excess hair growth and acne.

Weight Loss

Maintaining a healthy weight through good nutrition and exercise can have a positive effect on insulin and blood pressure. Losing excess weight may also improve your chances of getting pregnant.


Preventing PCOS Complications

While you can’t prevent PCOS, certain lifestyle changes can lower your risk of complications.

Eat Healthy

Your provider may recommend following a low-carbohydrate, low-sugar diet. Nutritious meals with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables can keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range. Our nutrition experts can help.

Manage Your Weight

Excess weight when you have PCOS can increase your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems. Our weight management classes can help you achieve a healthy weight.

Who does it affect?

5MWomen have PCOS

Undiagnosed cases

3 in 4Women with PCOS don’t know they have it

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and Diabetes

World Health Organization: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

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