What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS, is a condition women have that is caused by an imbalance in their reproductive hormones. Specifically, this means high levels of androgens. Androgens are male hormones that are usually present in small amounts in women. The hormonal imbalance leads to problems with the ovaries. This includes formations of cysts on the ovaries and/or irregular menstrual cycles.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

  • Missed, irregular, or very light periods
  • Large ovaries or ovaries with many cysts
  • Excessive hair
  • Baldness or thinning hair
  • Weight gain
  • Skin darkening
  • Acne or oily skin

How is PCOS diagnosed?

Diagnosis requires at least two of the above symptoms. Some of the tests used to form a diagnosis include the following:

  • Physical exam
  • Pelvic exam (usually part of the physical exam)
  • Pelvic ultrasound to check for cysts
  • Blood test to check for male androgen hormone and cholesterol levels

How do you treat PCOS?

If the patient is trying to get pregnant, the treatment options involve the following:

  • Change in diet and activity
  • Medications that cause ovulation

If the patient is not trying to get pregnant, a few more options are available:

  • Hormonal birth control (i.e., the pill, patch, vaginal ring, shot, or IUD)
  • Diabetes medication (i.e., metformin)
  • Anti-androgen medication

*NOTE: There is no cure for PCOS. The treatment options listed above mainly help women to manage their symptoms. These treatments also benefit women with possible future plans for children or long-term health risks such as diabetes and heart disease.

Written by:

Charlotte Ye

PharmD Candidate 2025

Philadelphia College of Pharmacy

Saint Joseph’s University


“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2023https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos#:~:text=PCOS%20is%20a%20very%20common,%2C%20infertility%2C%20and%20weight%20gain.

“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.” OASH|Office on Women’s Health, 22 Feb 2021, https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.