Women’s Health FAQs

How Do I Know if I Have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

Publication Date: January 10, 2018

By: NWHN Staff


What is polycystic ovary syndrome, and how do I know if I have it? Is it life-threatening?


The hormone imbalance results from an excess amount of androgens or testosterone, making it more difficult for the body to develop an egg or release the egg during ovulation. This disrupts the overall hormone production in the ovaries and may cause small cysts (fluid-filled sacs) to form within the ovary. You can read about ovarian cysts in our PCOS Deep Dive Article.

Because androgens and testosterone are hormones associated with male sex organs and reproduction, PCOS can cause symptoms such as hirsutism (excessive hair growth on the face or chin), male pattern baldness, and infrequent or irregular menstrual cycles. Other symptoms of PCOS can include weight gain, excessive acne, and pregnancy-related problems such as difficulty getting pregnant or infertility.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, as well as lower abdominal pain, then you may have PCOS. The best way to know for sure is to have your doctor perform a series of tests, including a pelvic exam, blood tests to examine your hormone levels, and a transvaginal ultrasound to get a closer look at your ovaries.

While PCOS itself is not life-threatening, those who have it are at higher risk for other more serious conditions such as Type II diabetes, cardiovascular problems, endometrial cancer, liver inflammation, and a few others. Although there is no cure for PCOS, there are several ways you can reduce the risk of these more serious conditions, as well as relieve symptoms, especially pain associated with cysts.

If you have PCOS, your doctor may prescribe you an oral contraceptive to regulate your menstrual cycle and decrease androgens. Other treatment methods could include consuming a high-fiber carbohydrate diet, taking anti-androgen medicines, and exercising regularly to help reduce your cholesterol.

For more information about polycystic ovary syndrome and treatments, look at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Office on Women’s Health.

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Updated 12/15/2023 by Rachel Grimsley, RN, BSN, MSN, Nurse Writer

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