What are polycystic ovaries?

Polycystic Ovaries

What are Polycystic ovaries? The condition should really be called polyfollicular disease, because the ovaries have a number of follicles in them rather than big cysts.

Polycystic ovary syndrome, Polycystic ovarian disease or Stein Leventhal Syndrome are a spectrum of the same condition that affects some or all of the following

  • Menstrual cycle
  • Fertility
  • Appearance
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Hormones

The symptoms and signs of Polycystic ovarian syndrome. called PCOS, often begin soon after a woman first begins having periods, called the menarche.

In some cases, PCOS develops later during the reproductive years, for instance, in response to substantial weight gain.

5 to 10% of woman may have the disease and it may occur as young as 11.

What happens in a cycle with PCOS

Before watching this I would suggest you view our video on what happens in a Normal menstrual cycle, which will give you a better understanding of the differences.

In polycystic ovaries, FSH or follicle stimulating hormone, stimulates these multiple follicles.

Instead of a few follicles production oestrogen, all these follicles produce oestrogen.

The oestrogen level rises very quickly and as it should do triggers the LH (luteinising hormone) release, even though none of the follicles may be ready for ovulation.

The LH is unable to stimulate ovulation and in this case causes these follicles to produce male hormone and male hormone derivatives, which contribute to some of the male hormone affects associated with Polycystic ovaries.

These male hormones further inhibit ovulation, therefore leading to a vicious cycle.

What causes PCOS?

  • Insulin Resistance
  • Low Grade Inflammation
  • Hereditary/Genetic

Insulin Resistance

Research has shown that PCOS is a disease related to insulin resistance.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, which amongst many things controls the balance of glucose in the blood.

Many women with PCOS have too much insulin in their bodies because they have problems using it.

If you have insulin resistance, your ability to use insulin effectively is impaired, and your pancreas has to secrete more insulin to make glucose available to cells. Excess insulin might also affect the ovaries by increasing androgen production, which may interfere with the ovaries’ ability to ovulate.

Low-grade inflammation.

Your body’s white blood cells produce substances to fight infection in a response called inflammation. Research has shown that women with PCOS have low-grade inflammation and that this type of low-grade inflammation stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens.


If your mother or sister has PCOS, you might have a greater chance of having it, too. Researchers also are looking into the possibility that certain genes are linked to PCOS.

Normal ovary and polycystic ovary

Normal ovary and polycystic ovary flyer

What effect does this have on the uterus.

Commonly Oestrogen just builds up the lining of the uterus. With PCOS, the lining continues to build up until it outstrips it blood supply. You may then have a period. This can happen in a regular way i.e. every 4 or 6 weeks, such that some people think they might be ovulating normally.

In some women however, the testosterone inhibits ovulation so much that there is no build up at all of the endometrium and in this case, you may not have a period at all.

If you have any more questions then get in touch via my gynaecologist practice website.

polycystic ovary syndrome symptoms, polycystic ovary syndrome treatment | October 6, 2015 | Naylin Appanna