Polycystic ovary syndrome signs and symptoms often begin soon after a woman first begins having periods (menarche). In some cases, PCOS develops later during the reproductive years, for instance, in response to substantial weight gain.
PCOS has many signs — things you or your doctor can see or measure — and symptoms — things that you notice or feel. All of these can worsen with obesity. Every woman with PCOS may be affected a little differently.
To be diagnosed with the condition, your doctor looks for at least two of the following:
- Irregular periods. This is the most common characteristic. Examples include menstrual intervals longer than 35 days; fewer than eight menstrual cycles a year; failure to menstruate for four months or longer; and prolonged periods that may be scant or heavy.
- Excess androgen. Elevated levels of male hormones (androgens) may result in physical signs, such as excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), adult acne or severe adolescent acne, and male-pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia).
- Polycystic ovaries. Polycystic ovaries become enlarged and contain numerous small fluid-filled sacs which surround the eggs.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you have concerns about your menstrual periods, if you're experiencing infertility or if you have signs of androgen excess such as acne and male-pattern hair growth.