What is the difference between polycystic ovaries and polycystic ovarian syndrome?
Many women are frightened when they learn they have polycystic ovaries. Usually this diagnosis is found when they have a pelvic ultrasound, and they then lie awake at night worrying that there may be something wrong with them!
Well this is not the case. In fact did you know that 20% of women have polycystic ovaries – that means 1 in 5 women world wide has them. So they are pretty common.
It is where the ovaries contain many small cysts – these are fluid filled swellings, the size ranging anywhere from 2 to 10mm. These cysts tend to appear around the surface of the ovary giving it a larger appearance.
On ultrasound the cysts have the typical appearance of a “necklace” around the surface of the ovary.
Now you can have polycystic ovaries only and not have the polycystic ovarian syndrome. The majority of women have this picture.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is diagnosed when there are other symptoms associated with the typical polycystic ovarian appearance. These are infrequent menstrual cycles, signs of increased male hormones like acne or increased hair growth – see earlier article – (What is PCOS?)