Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

What is polycystic ovarian syndrome?

Women who have reached a certain age understand the horror of finding an increase in facial hair. However, if you are a teenager or woman within childbearing years (age 20 to 35), excessive facial hair, acne and irregular menstrual cycles may indicate a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS.

Symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome

Symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome include:

  • Acne
  • Enlarged ovaries
  • Excess male hormone secretion
  • Infrequent or irregular menstrual periods
  • Male-type hair growth, such as facial hair
  • Multiple, small ovarian cysts

Women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome are at an increased risk for miscarriage and infertility, as well as ovarian and uterine cancer. Although there is no cure for polycystic ovarian syndrome, Main Line Health offers treatment options to help reduce your symptoms and increase your fertility.

Diagnosis and testing for polycystic ovarian syndrome

Diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome includes:

  • Blood test – Your doctor may use a blood test to measure the level of male hormones (testosterone) in your body. A blood test may also be used to check for high insulin levels.
  • Ultrasound – Your doctor may use ultrasound to see if your ovaries are enlarged and if there are multiple, small ovarian cysts – a symptom of polycystic ovarian syndrome.

If you have polycystic ovarian syndrome, your treatment will depend on your particular symptoms and needs. For example, your main concerns may be controlling your acne or regulating your menstrual cycle. If you wish to become pregnant, you'll want to explore treatment options that help increase fertility. The main goal when treating polycystic ovarian syndrome is to balance your hormones in order to decrease symptoms.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome treatment options

Your treatment may include:

  • Lifestyle changes – Regular exercise, a balanced diet and weight loss can all help to balance your hormone levels and regulate your menstrual cycle. If you smoke, quitting will also help balance your hormones.
  • Hormone therapy – Taking birth control hormones can help regulate your menstrual cycle and may also reduce your risk of uterine cancer because it keeps the lining of your uterus from building up too long. Hormone therapy may also help reduce male-type hair growth (facial hair) and acne.
  • Medicine – Certain medications may be used to help you start to ovulate and regulate your menstrual cycle.
  • Surgery – If your symptoms include ovarian cysts, you may have laparoscopic surgery to remove the cysts. Laparoscopic surgery uses small incisions, meaning you’ll have less pain and a shorter recovery time.


Endocrinology and Metabolism

When hormones are out of balance, you can experience a wide range of problems. Main Line Health endocrinologists can help assess your needs and provide care for any endocrinology and metabolism conditions.

Women's Health

Discover how Main Line Health provides comprehensive and compassionate care for women in all stages of life.


If you’re ready to have a child, but facing fertility challenges, reproductive endocrinologists can help. Find fertility solutions and services at locations throughout the Philadelphia area.