What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic ovary syndrome is the name given to a condition in which women with polycystic ovaries also have one or more additional symptoms. It was first ‘discovered’ in 1935 by Doctors Stein and Leventhal, so for many years it was known as the Stein-Leventhal syndrome.

The term polycystic ovaries describes ovaries that contain many small cysts (about twice as many as in normal ovaries), usually no bigger than 8 millimetres each, located just below the surface of the ovaries. These cysts are egg-containing follicles that have not developed properly due to a number of hormonal abnormalities.

Polycystic ovaries (PCO) are very common, affecting around 20 per cent of women. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is also very common, affecting 5–10 per cent of women.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS):

  • affects millions of women in the UK and worldwide
  • runs in families
  • is one of the leading causes of fertility problems in women
  • if not properly managed, can lead to additional health problems in later life
  • can affect a woman’s appearance and self-esteem.


Although PCOS is treatable, it cannot be cured.

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