Polycystic ovary syndrome - Symptoms 

Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome 

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Media last reviewed: 21/02/2013

Next review due: 21/02/2015

The symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) usually become apparent in your late teens or early twenties.

Not all women with PCOS have all of the symptoms. Each symptom can vary from mild to severe. In many women, the only symptoms are menstrual problems or a failure to conceive.

Common symptoms of PCOS include:

  • irregular periods or no periods at all
  • difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate)
  • excessive hair growth (hirsutism) - usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
  • weight gain
  • thinning hair and hair loss from the head 
  • oily skin or acne

You should talk to your GP if you have any of these symptoms and suspect you may have PCOS.

Fertility problems

Polycystic ovary syndrome is one of the most common causes of female infertility. Many women discover they have PCOS when they're trying to get pregnant and are unsuccessful.

During each menstrual cycle the ovaries release an egg (ovum) into the uterus. This process is called ovulation and usually occurs once a month. Women with PCOS often fail to ovulate or ovulate infrequently, which means they have irregular or absent periods and find it difficult to get pregnant.

Risks in later life

Having PCOS can increase your chances of developing other health problems later in life. For example, women with PCOS are at an increased risk of developing:

Women who have had absent or very irregular periods (fewer than three or four periods a year) for many years have a higher-than-average risk of developing cancer of the womb lining (endometrial cancer).

However, the chance of getting endometrial cancer is still small and can be minimised using treatments to regulate periods, such as the contraceptive pill or an intrauterine system (IUS).

Page last reviewed: 03/07/2013

Next review due: 03/07/2015


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The 12 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

suemum of 2 said on 15 August 2014

Hi I am nearly 40 and was diagnosed with pcos in my early 20s via a positive ultrasound.I am not a typical pcos according to some docs as I am not overweight or have acne but I do suffer with excess hair which I find embarissing.I have had 2 children which were conceived in about 6 to 8 months for my first and my second in about 3 months which was good as I thought it would'nt happen.I have suffered with heavy periods before having the mirena,fibroids and for the last three years have now been having larger ovarian cysts I have had a 4cm drained whilst having ivestivigative lap I had a 6cm rupture last october which caused horrendous pain and my follow up scan showed the ruptured one was still there it had reformed plus a 4cm on my other ovary.They agree to a 2nd lap and I signed to say they could take my ovary but after waiting 8 weeks for my lap when I went down to surgery they had gone but they found a very large distended bowel. I since have had my mirena coil removed to see if it would stop the pain and the cysts but I dont think it has as over a month ago I was woken in the night with the same horrendous pain again like from my last ruptured cyst felt like I needed to push a baby out the pressure was so bad but I just coped somehow and didnt go the hosi or the docs but I have still been in a lot of pain I went to get a new coil in a couple of days ago but it failed due to the pain it caused so I am temp on cerrelle mini pill which info on the net says can cause ov cysts.So I dont know what the out come will be on this new pill.Having pcos is not great I just wish I could have a hysterectomy and get rid of it all.

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Micky6935 said on 31 July 2014

Hi I'm 38 & was diagnosed with pcos when I was 19.
I went on the pill but because of side effects not a good idea for the long term.
I have 2 periods a year if not taking anything.
I've been on metformin for 13 years now which is the safest way to regulate my cycle. Happy not having periods
But not a good idea.
I'm not diabetic the metformin is for the pcos.
Carbohydrates are very bad for pcos suffers best to stay clear unless your very active.
Chips, potatoes, pasta are not needed as part of a heathly diet.
This is just what I have found out over the years which helps me.

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Conslee said on 03 November 2013

I'm 14 and recently been diagnosed with pcos. It's affected me completely. I've always been very drained and tired or depressed. My periods are uncomfortable when I have them. Always talk to your gp if anything about you changes if you suffer with pcos because anything can cause anything. I have loads of spots and black hair in all sorts of places of my body even though I'm light skinned and have light hair. I'm considering going to the doctors and asking for the pill not because I'm sexual active but apparently it helps with mood swings and hormones etc. If you suffer with pcos, you're not alone. Good luck:) x

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emma 25 said on 22 September 2013

Im 25 and have been told i have pcos.i have periods all the time,this has been happening for a couple of years. some are heavy with blood clots.i have been to see a gyne and are still seeig him to date.i was given 3 different types of the pill to try sort my periods out but this did not help.when i see gyne next he was going to give me tablets to help me ovulate.i think i should have my tubes checked aswell.having pcos gets me down as i always think i will never be able to concieve

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hayley 3 said on 19 September 2013

im 24 and came off the pill a few months ago and as I know it can take a while to get back to normal. I used to have average to heavy periods and now they are very light and dont last for very long but i do spot bleed and they are very irregular. I also noticed for the past couple of years i started to get mild acne when as a teenager I had no spots at all, at first i just thought it was because my skin was so dry. Ive also been getting excess hair on my breasts and belly for a couple of years too. after sex it is painful and i get pains in my womb like a dull ache all the time. I have depression anyway and diabetes is in the family. I just wanted to know if it was worth getting checked out for this as I also recently found out that my older sister has this syndrome and it made her miscarry a few times, is it hereditary or run in families? it would explain alot but i dont know if im just being silly. Apparently you can find out via blood test? any help would be great. thanks.

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traloudod said on 22 August 2013

Thanks claire :) it makes me feel better knowing someone else has went through it, i will deffinetly ask about polyps got to go for another scan in a few weeks fingers crossed they find the cause soon, glad everythings fine for you now :) can i just ask have you got children? im scared i might not be able too due to this and pcos xx

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cluck1981claire said on 19 July 2013

Hi tracy 22 when I read your comments it was like reading about myself a few years ago I was in the exact situation only I was bleeding for six months I was given the same medication as you to stop the bleeding to cut a long story short they eventually found a polyp in my uterus I waited 6 weeks for a hysteroscopy to remove it had no problems since hope this helps maybe you could mention it to your doctor to at least rule this out hope all goes well claire x

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traloudod said on 03 July 2013

So after having little or no periods for 4 years, ive now went to the opposite extreme, ive been on my period constantly for over 8 month. At first I thought great, Im becoming normal and its got alot of catching up to do, but after 8 month its starting to put a strain on my relationship, its really expensive not to mention the cramps and mood swings. I went to my GP voiced my concerns and he gave me Norethisterone to stop the bleeding. A week later blood free I went for an internal examination and she said everything looks normal and the cervix and tissue looked healthy. She noticed it hurt quite a lot which wasn’t common, after ive had sex it does hurt a cramp like pain for a few hours and it doesn’t matter how much pressure is applied. I stopped taking the tablets and now the bloods back with the vengeance and I’m having to change every 20 mins and even throughout the night whereas before it was like it was on a timer 7am-8pm daily and hardly anything during the night. I’m loosing a lot of blood and passing huge clots. The doctor have gave me Tranexamic acid to calm it down and put it due to the weeks break and referred me to see a gyno and to get another scan to make sure the PCOS hasn’t got worse (I didn’t know PCOS could get any worse, ive never had a check up or anything) as they don’t know what else it could be. Ive never had of any STI’s, Im not pregnant, blood pressure and iron levels are normal, has anyone had similar experiences? Or know what this could be?

Also how long does it take to be referred, ive been waiting a few weeks now and getting impatient surely it can cause damage to bleed this much

Help me
Tracey 22

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Emjayne said on 16 June 2013

I'm 21 and last year I had a missed miscarriage at 13 wks and five days, now I have always worried that I would have issues with fertility as I did not start my periods till I was 17 years old which was always a worry so this unexpected pregnancy was a big relief for me. However I have always had irregular periods, and often go three months without having one at all. Following the miscarriage I was given no details as to why this happened just poor luck I was told. I suffer from irregular Nd heavy periods and excessive hair also have suffered since my teens with acne which medication is doing nothing to get rid of. I girl I work with has suggested all this could be linked to this condition and would like some advice before I go speak to my GP about having some test. Thanks.

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Amanda85 said on 12 March 2013

Hi Lou86 - all women have cysts on their ovaries. Ovaries are only poly cystic if there is an excess or if they are above a certain size. If you had PCOS it would have been relayed to you when you had an ultrasound which I assume happened with you PID diagnosis? I hope your periods have returned by now - I have PCOS and have only ever had 2 natural periods in my life - I know it can take 6-12 months for periods to return after PID.

To IDontKnowWhatToDo - PCOS is diagnosed mostly via a positive ultrasound and blood tests that show an excess of androgens - I had both. If an ultrasound didn't show you to have polycystic ovaries you probably don't have PCOS but it might be worth asking your GP for blood tests to look at your testosterone levels if it hasn't been done and also insulin levels (if hair growth is excessive this would explain why and insulin levels will tell you if your weight problem is medical or not). Although I have PCOS I don't have a weight issue because my insulin is fine - symptoms vary. My best friend has severe IBS and also endometriosis - this is also a condition that can affect periods and is linked to IBS as the 2 can antagonize each other. Hope this helps if you see it.

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IDontKnowWhatToDo said on 28 October 2012

Hi, I'm 17 years old and still a virgin, I haven't had a period in the last 5 months. I also have been gaining a little bit of weight (14stone) my doctors told me to diet but even then no matter what I ate I still seemed to either gain wait or stay the same. To my mum I put on a brave face and try not to think to much about it, I have been for a scan before for PCOS but they could not see anything so this didn't help me one bit I also notice that I a bit more body hair then my friends but this may be because my hairs darker it just looks that way I'm not sure. I read alot online and in magazines where people have brain tumors that an stop periods so on and so forth but I still don know what to think as last summer I was told I had IBS could this have an effect on my problem? I would really like some one to help me all the doctors I spoke to don't really seem all that bothered and well I don't really feel as if I can talk to my mum. Some one please help!!!

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Lou86 said on 02 August 2012

Hi was wondering if you guys could help me, I'm 26 and recently have had a pain in my left side... several doctors and nurses told me I had Pelvic inflammatory disease ..as my tube and ovary were swollen. All the tests for this came back negative now after 7 months the doctors finally agreed to send me for a scan ...I have gained weight even though I do not eat much, my periods are non existent and if I do get one they last a day. my question is do you think I could a cyst or cysts on my left ovary ? x

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