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What is polycystic ovary syndrome?

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Quick Answer

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition that is caused by an imbalance of a woman's hormonal levels; it leads to irregularities in the menstrual cycle, difficulty conceiving a baby, ovarian cysts and other health problems. If left untreated, polycystic ovary syndrome can lead to serious health issues, including heart disease and diabetes, according to WebMD.

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Many women with the condition, which is usually known by the acronym PCOS, develop many small ovarian cysts. The cysts in and of themselves are not dangerous, but their presence brings about imbalances in a woman's hormone levels. Hormones work as messengers that trigger various bodily processes, including the production of energy and growth. Sometimes hormones are responsible for signaling for release of additional hormones.

Although the exact mechanisms are not yet fully understood, PCOS causes these hormones to become imbalanced. This might manifest in the body triggering the production of hormones that cause excess body hair and hair on the face or that stop the body from ovulating, according to WebMD. PCOS can also cause the body to become resistant to insulin; when it doesn't use insulin in the way it is intended, this can cause an elevation in sugar levels and bring on diabetes. WebMD cautions that early diagnosis and treatment are key in battling PCOS.

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