Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Why choose UCLA Health for PCOS care?
At UCLA Health, you can expect the highest level of care for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Our program combines the knowledge of skilled clinical specialists with highly experienced scientists. Whether you experience mild or severe PCOS, we can help.
When you choose UCLA Health for polycystic ovary syndrome care, you can expect:
Accurate diagnosis: We provide a thorough evaluation and testing to rule out other conditions with symptoms like those of PCOS, including pituitary, thyroid and adrenal abnormalities. Our obstetrician gynecologists and reproductive endocrinologists (female hormone specialists) provide you with an accurate diagnosis, which is crucial for developing a successful treatment plan.
Advanced treatment: From medications to complex surgical procedures, we provide a variety of advanced PCOS treatment options. Our OB/GYN and reproductive endocrinologists guide you through your fertility journey with PCOS. We offer state-of-the-art therapies to help you conceive.
Personalized approach: We understand that PCOS affects every woman differently and can cause a wide range of symptoms. Our team develops a treatment plan based on your unique needs, lifestyle goals and pressing symptoms.
Access to leading-edge research: UCLA Health experts are at the forefront of work to advance our understanding of PCOS and related conditions, such as infertility, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Our Women’s Reproductive Health Research Program provides women with PCOS the highest level of care and quality of life through research and investigation. Eligible patients can access the latest treatments in clinical trials at UCLA Health Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN).
Compassionate care: We understand that PCOS can lead to physical and mental health challenges, such as infertility and depression. Our skilled specialists take the time to get to know you as a person. Your care team addresses your whole health with skill and genuine concern for your well-being.
Focus on wellness: We support your whole-body health by working with you to minimize future risks. We evaluate PCOS symptoms such as weight gain and find ways to help you manage them, so you stay as healthy and strong as possible.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome is the most common hormone abnormality in women of reproductive age (usually 15 to 44 years old). Up to 1 in 10 (10%) of U.S. women in this age group experience PCOS, which may be inherited (passed down in families).
When you have polycystic ovary syndrome, your body produces an excess of androgen hormones. Androgens are sex hormones responsible for reproductive system growth and development. Males make more androgens than females. The most common androgen is testosterone.
Androgen overproduction in women can cause menstrual cycle problems as well as changes in skin, hair growth and weight. This hormonal imbalance also can lead to a lack of ovulation (release of eggs from ovaries) and abnormal uterine bleeding. It may cause enlarged ovaries with multiple, harmless small cysts (polycystic ovaries). Androgen overproduction is also linked with increased abdominal fat deposition which can contribute to insulin resistance.
Ranging from mild to severe, PCOS symptoms develop during childbearing years due to hormonal imbalances. Your lifestyle, including diet and exercise, can affect the severity of symptoms. Weight gain can also worsen PCOS-related reproductive and metabolic problems.
PCOS symptoms may include:
- Emotional and mental health changes
- Hirsutism (excessive hair growth) or hair loss
- Increased weight gain
- Preferential abdominal fat accumulation
- Insulin resistance (more insulin than normal is needed to process blood sugar)
- Irregular uterine bleeding, typically due to thickening of the uterine lining
- Polycystic ovaries (small cysts in the ovaries)
How we diagnose PCOS
UCLA Health doctors typically diagnose polycystic ovary syndrome by performing a physical exam and other tests using state-of-the-art tools. Understanding exactly how PCOS affects your body helps us guide your treatment.
Tests may include:
Blood tests check hormone levels to assess ovary function.
Glucose tolerance test looks at how your body responds to sugar to predict your risk of diabetes.
Risk assessment measures glucose, fat and cholesterol levels in the blood to predict your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Ovarian ultrasound produces detailed images of your ovaries to identify cysts.
PCOS treatments we offer
At UCLA Health, we treat the full spectrum of polycystic ovary syndrome, from mild to severe. Experienced OB/GYN and reproductive endocrinologists take the time to understand your symptoms, needs and goals, so we can improve your quality of life with PCOS.
Treatment generally focuses on balancing your hormones to ease symptoms. Our experts may recommend treatments such as:
Acne medication: Oral contraceptives, creams or antibiotics can help clear your skin.
Hair growth therapy: Medications that reduce or slow androgen production, along with creams applied directly to the skin, help stimulate hair regrowth.
Hair removal therapy: Medications, electrolysis or laser hair removal can reduce or remove unwanted hair.
Medication for irregular uterine bleeding: Excess estrogen can cause the uterine lining to thicken and bleed. Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) and/or progesterone supplementation help restore the lining to its normal condition. Rarely, surgery is needed when medication doesn't help.
Effective care for PCOS infertility
Ovulation releases eggs from your ovaries so you can get pregnant. But if you have PCOS, this doesn’t always happen. In fact, lack of ovulation is the primary cause of infertility in women with PCOS.
For those who are overweight, improving diet and exercise can help ovulation return to a regular, healthy cycle. In other cases, medications can help. When medications don’t work or women experience more complex fertility problems, we offer surgery or in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Customized treatment to reduce future health risks
Preventing disease is an essential component of any treatment plan for polycystic ovary syndrome. We evaluate your PCOS symptoms, such as increased weight gain, and find ways to help you address them.
To reduce your risk of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, your treatment plan may involve lifestyle management techniques. These include weight loss, nutrition support and exercise plans. Our team may also recommend medications to manage insulin and cholesterol. We partner with you to meet your needs and maximize your health.
Our UCLA Health team of OB/GYN and hormone specialists provides coordinated, comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome. Our skilled doctors understand the importance of addressing your specific needs and preferences, especially when it comes to fertility care.