This article is from the Big Folks Health FAQ, by email@example.com (Sharon Curtis) with numerous contributions by others.
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It is called a syndrome
as it characterized by a collection of symptoms, and it is not well
understood what causes it.
thinning hair, obesity, adult acne, excess facial hair, irregular cycles,
brownish skin on the back of the neck, tiny "skin tags", infertility,
It affects only women (obviously), about 6% of all women. You don't have
to be obese to have PCOS. PCOS promotes weight gain and is a symptom
rather than a cause. The irregular periods are caused by (and contribute
to) an excess of androgen hormones in the body.
PCOS is diagnosed in several ways, including a blood test, or through
sonogram or a laporascopy. By looking at pictures of ovaries, the doctor
can tell if there are cysts on the ovaries.
With PCOS, ovulation is not occuring regularly, but egg development is.
Thus as eggs develop but are not released, the problem snowballs as
each unreleased egg forms a cyst, and as these build up, these can
prevent further eggs from escaping.
The American Journal Of Medicine published a symposium on PCOS:
"Androgens and Women's Health", Volume 98(1A) Jan 16, 1995
Further information can be found from the PCO page at
There is also a recently formed newsgroup alt.support.pco, and a
mailing list at firstname.lastname@example.org (open to both men and women,
anyone with an interest in the condition).