PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome. It is one of the most common endocrine disorders that affects 5-10 percent of women that are of reproductive age. It is believed to be caused by insensitivity to the hormone insulin. Despite the fact that it is such a common disorder, it often goes undiagnosed for years. Doctors often misinterpret the signs and symptoms for other disorders.

It has also been called polycystic ovary disease, functional ovarian hyperandrogenism, Stein-Leventhal syndrome, ovarian hyperthecosis and sclerocystic ovary syndrome.

Some symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome include oligomenorrhea (which means infrequent menstruation) or amenorrhoea (which is the absence of a menstrual period). PCOS can also cause hirsutism (excessive and unwanted hair growth), oily skin, acne, weight gain or trouble losing weight, infertility (due to a lack of ovulation) and depression.

Another symptom that sometimes occurs is the development of cysts on the ovaries. Ovarian cysts do not usually cause any serious problems, but they can be extremely painful. Despite the name of polycystic ovarian syndrome, a woman can have the disease without actually having cysts and likewise, the presence of ovarian cysts does not always mean that a woman has PCOS.

If you think you might have PCOS you need to talk to your doctor. If your doctor does diagnose you with PCOS he might put you on birth control pills to help regulate your hormones and your menstrual cycle. Depending on the symptoms you have, your doctor might also prescribe androgen-lowering medications as well, such as spironolactone, which can help reduce excess hair growth and acne.

If you are overweight, losing weight may help reduce the severity of your symptoms. Sometimes losing just 10 pounds can be enough to help. PCOS can make losing weight difficult, but your doctor can work with you to help create a plan that will work for you.

You should limit foods with high levels of saturated fats such as meats, cheeses and fried foods. You should eat more vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and whole grains. If you aren't sure how to create a healthy diet plan then a registered dietitian or your physician can help.

Living with PCOS is difficult, but if you work with your doctor you can learn how to manage it and in most cases you can reduce your symptoms.