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What causes the visible symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?

The most visible symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) stem from excessive levels of androgens, such as testosterone, produced by the ovaries and the adrenal glands. Androgens often are called "male hormones," even though they are found in both men and women. They are usually present at higher concentrations in men and are an important factor in determining male traits and reproductive activity. Androgens, or androgen precursors, include testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) or DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S).

Excessive levels of these hormones, a condition called hyperandrogenemia, or their exaggerated action, called hyperandrogenism can lead to some of the most common symptoms of PCOS in women, including:

  • excess body or facial hair (hirsutism)
  • oily skin and acne
  • oligoovulation (irregular ovulation and menstruation)
  • scalp hair loss and balding (male pattern balding and androgenic alopecia)

But such symptoms alone are not enough to support a diagnosis of PCOS. They may only indicate the presence of hyperandrogenism, which can result from several conditions.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.