Definition of PCO disease

PCO disease: PCO stands for PolyCystic Ovarian. PCO disease is an hormonal problem that causes women various symptoms including:

  1. Irregular or no periods
  2. Acne
  3. Obesity, and
  4. Excess hair growth.
All women with PCO have irregular or no menses. Women with PCO do not ovulate (do not release an egg every month).

Women with PCO are at a higher risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and uterine (endometrial) cancer. Much of this risk can be reversed by exercise and weight loss. It is also important for women with PCO to have regular periods -- if a woman does not have regular periods, her risk of endometrial cancer rises -- so medication is prescribed to induce regular periods.

For acne or excess hair growth, a water pill (diuretic) called spironolactone can help. For PCO women who desire pregnancy, a medication called clomiphene (CLOMID) can be used to induce ovulation (cause egg production).

A type of surgery called a "wedge resection," in which a piece of the ovary is removed, seems to help some women.

No one is sure what causes PCO. However, the ovaries of women with PCO contain a number of small cysts. Hence, the name poly (many) cystic ovarian disease. The name "Stein-Leventhal" is after the late American gynecologists Irving F. Stein, Sr. and Michael Leo Leventhal.


Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012

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