What is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?

Updated: Sep 19, 2019
  • Author: Richard Scott Lucidi, MD, FACOG; Chief Editor: Richard Scott Lucidi, MD, FACOG  more...
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Answer

Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) have abnormalities in the metabolism of androgens and estrogen and in the control of androgen production. PCOS can result from abnormal function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis. A woman is diagnosed with polycystic ovaries (as opposed to PCOS) if she has 12 or more follicles in at least 1 ovary (see the image below).

Low power, H and E of an ovary containing multiple Low power, H and E of an ovary containing multiple cystic follicles in a patient with PCOS.

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