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Toni Sicola

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Overview


Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition among women in the developed world, and affects between 5 and 10% of that population, regardless of race or ethnicity1. Also known as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome (Hunton, 2007), this condition has a range of symptoms but they aren’t always expressed in every affected individual.

Polycystic ovaries are the result of anovulation (either the ovary is not expelled during menses, or menses does not occur at all). The ovaries are not releasing eggs properly, which causes an arrangement of cysts just under the surface of the ovary (Hunton, 2007). Although an ultrasound might reveal this condition, it is not always visible using this method.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is not just a Sexual and Reproductive health challenge, as this category suggests. It is a metabolic issue as well, as insulin and glucose metabolism play a large role in the manifestations of the symptoms of this syndrome. Insulin resistance is a huge part of this syndrome, and is often manifested in the body with symptoms similar to those of Syndrome X (Metabolic Syndrome), including middle body weight, overweight and obesity, higher risk or presence of heart disease, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes. PCOS is different from Metabolic Syndrome, in that not all women affected are overweight or obese. However, insulin resistance in some degree is almost always present. Women with PCOS often have trouble conceiving, which is why this syndrome is classified as a Reproductive Health issue.


  1. Cronin, Guyatt, Griffith, Wong, Azziz, Futterweit, Cook, and Dunaif, 1998