Stony Brook Medicine Health News

Understanding Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) affects as many as 5 million women of reproductive years within the United States, and approximately 60,000 women in Suffolk County, New York. It’s a hormonal and metabolic condition that impacts a woman’s quality of life, reproductive, and overall health.

 What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common but complex condition that impacts one in ten women of childbearing age. It is associated with the excess production of certain hormones called androgens, often associated with insulin resistance.

In normal ovulation, the egg (follicle) ruptures through the outer surface (or capsule) of the ovary. In women with PCOS, high androgen levels cause an excess number of small eggs to grow, which interferes with ovulation. This results in a number of eggs accumulating under the outer surface of the ovary, which is why the disease is called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

PCOS can affect a woman’s metabolic, endocrine, and reproductive systems. It is one of the most common causes of irregular menstrual cycles and infertility, as the high levels of androgens interfere with the development and release of eggs.

PCOS Symptoms

For some, metabolic changes can result in weight gain, and the hormonal changes can be responsible for acne, excess body hair, and even male pattern baldness. PCOS can also increase the chance of developing uterine cancer in adulthood. These symptoms and consequences can have a negative impact on body image and mental health.

PCOS can be associated with other related health disorders including:

  • Obesity
  • Insulin resistance
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

In many cases, the signs and symptoms of PCOS develop in adolescence. Early diagnosis is important to most effectively treat symptoms, and to prevent complications and other associated conditions. Due to the systemic effects of PCOS, it requires a multidisciplinary team of physicians to properly care for the whole patient.

 Who Can Get PCOS?

PCOS symptoms typically start around the start of menstruation. Any woman of childbearing age can develop PCOS, but there is also a genetic component, so women are more likely to develop symptoms when another family member has the condition.

Women and teens who are overweight generally have a much greater chance of developing PCOS than those who are slimmer. We are currently learning more about possible prenatal and prepubertal risk factors such as poor fetal growth, low birth weight, and early onset of pubic hair.

 Can PCOS Be Cured?

Although PCOS is not curable, there are many treatments available to reduce the impact it can have on health, fertility, and appearance.

The clinical team treating PCOS patients will generally include: 

  • Endocrinologists
  • Gynecologists
  • Fertility experts
  • Primary care providers
  • Cardiologists
  • Weight loss experts
  • Dermatologists
  • Mental health providers
  • Nutritionists

Each patient’s symptoms and goals are different, and they may change over time. Nutrition and weight loss programs are paramount to help improve many PCOS symptoms and prevent other negative health consequences.

Many patients use hormone therapy to regulate their periods and improve excess hair growth and acne. A medication called Metformin may be prescribed to help control blood sugar levels and obesity. Aesthetic programs like laser hair removal help with unwanted hair growth. For women struggling to conceive, medications can be used to help ovulation to occur normally.

 How is Stony Brook Helping Women with PCOS?

Aided by a most generous donation, Stony Brook Medicine has developed a PCOS Center of Excellence, which will provide coordinated access to an interdisciplinary group of specialists who can manage the various components of treatment and perform research focused on optimal treatment protocols for PCOS.

A dedicated nurse navigator will work as the main contact for patients, and help them arrange appointments and manage their treatment plan.

To make an appointment, call (631) 444-4686. To learn more about PCOS and all the services provided, please visit our website at:

This article is intended to be general and/or educational in nature. Always consult your healthcare professional for help, diagnosis, guidance and treatment.