Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder among women of reproductive age – and it can present as early as adolescence. We talked to Pediatric Endocrinologist Hiba AlZubeidi, MD, who leads Le Bonheur’s PCOS Clinic.

Here’s what she says parents should know about identifying PCOS and finding treatment.polycysticovariansyndrome

What are the symptoms of PCOS and at what age does it usually appear?

PCOS can present after puberty starts, and a diagnosis can be made as early as two years after the first menstrual cycle. Symptoms include:

  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Excessive hair growth in unwanted areas
  • Acne

PCOS is more common in girls who are obese and/or have insulin resistance. There is also an increased risk for PCOS if the child’s mother has PCOS and for girls who were born small for gestational age and have early pubic hair development.

How is PCOS diagnosed?

Diagnosis is usually made based on symptoms and lab findings consistent with the National Institutes of Health criteria, which includes:

  • Irregular periods or amenorrhea (less than or equal to eight menses per year)
  • Elevated free or total testosterone (if other causes are excluded, like adrenal tumors, late congenital adrenal hyperplasia and prolactinomas)

How is PCOS treated?

Available treatment options include oral contraceptive pills (OCP) and metformin, in addition to healthy lifestyle changes and weight loss.

Why should you see an endocrinologist for PCOS?

In our clinic, you will get a complete evaluation of your adrenal and ovarian hormone levels, and treatment is based off your unique profile (symptoms and labs). Patients also receive evaluation and treatment for obesity, insulin resistance and other related complications.

Does PCOS affect fertility? Any other complications/risks associated with PCOS?

Treating PCOS in adolescents is important beyond relieving its symptoms because without treatment there is an increased risk of developing infertility, endometrial hyperplasia and carcinoma, Type 2 diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, and possibly cardiovascular disease.