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15 Key Facts about PCOS

Posted by Allie on 6th May 2017

15 Key Facts about PCOS
Photo: Individual images from Pixabay.com

PCOS is one of the most common endocrine conditions affecting women of reproductive age. Here are 15 other important facts and figures about the condition.

1. Although it is difficult to know exactly how many women have PCOS, it is currently believed to affect 1 in 5 women of child bearing age (1).

2. The exact cause of PCOS is not fully understood (2).

3. There is no cure for PCOS however, symptoms can be managed and improve (1).

4. Many women with PCOS are resistant to the action of insulin (LINK) in their body and produce higher levels of insulin to overcome this (3).

The exact cause of PCOS is not fully understood

5. PCOS is one of the leading causes of female infertility (4). However, not all women with PCOS have fertility issues and are able to conceive.

6. PCOS is associated with a wide range of symptoms including menstrual irregularities, difficulties or inability to get pregnant, hirsutism (excessive facial and body hair), acne, hair loss, acanthosis nigricans (darkened and thickened patches of skin) and obesity. Each woman presents differently with some or all of these symptoms at different levels of severity (2).

7. A weight loss of 5-10% in overweight women with PCOS has significant benefits on symptoms (3). Find out more about PCOS and the importance of nutrition and exercise here.

8. There is no single definitive criteria for diagnosing PCOS (5). It is most commonly defined by the Rotterdam criteria, which states that a woman needs to meet two of the three following criteria:

  • Oligoovulation, which means less than 6-9 periods a year, and/or anovulation i.e. not ovulating.
  • Clinical and/or biochemical hyperandrogenism.
  • Polycystic ovaries on ultrasound, which are more than 12 follicles in one or both ovaries and/or ovarian volume of more than 1 cubic centimetre.

9. The prevalence of depression and anxiety is higher in women with PCOS than for those without the condition (3).

10. Women with PCOS have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (3).

12. Hyperandrogenism (LINK) has been detected in around 60- 80% of cases of PCOS (3).

The prevalence of depression and anxiety is higher in women with PCOS than for those without the condition

13. Although it is not required to be diagnosed with the condition, insulin resistance (LINK) plays a prominent role in PCOS and has been detected in 50-80% of women with PCOS (3).

14. Infertility affects 40% of women with PCOS (2).

15. In the general population, 20-30% of women have cysts on their ovaries but no other symptoms of PCOS (6). The presence of polycystic ovaries alone does not therefore mean you have polycystic ovary syndrome.


Note that referenced or mentioned authors, websites and organisations are not affiliated with, nor endorsing, the content published on Positive PCOS.

1: NHS Choices. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Polycystic-ovarian-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed on 06.05.2017

2: J. Tomlinson et al. 2013. Raising awareness of polycystic ovary syndrome. Nursing Standard. 27 (40): 35-39

3: R. Garad et al. 2011. An evidence-based guideline for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Australian Nursing Journal. 19 (4): 30- 33

4: C.M. Bergh et al. 2016. Evidence-based management of infertility in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing. 45: 111–122

5: A Jalilian et al. 2015. Prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome and its associated complications in Iranian women: A meta-analysis. Iran Journal of Reproductive Medicine. 13 (10): 591–604

6: S. Sirmans & K.A. Pate. 2014. Epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. Clinical Epidemiology. 6:1-13

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