Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Women's Health

Font Size

A Mysterious Ailment

The mystery of PCOS continued...

Researchers, however, have yet to uncover why these symptoms surface in the first place. One clue is that PCOS tends to run in families, says Futterweit, a clinical professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

He hypothesizes that brain signals responsible for regulating reproductive hormones could be misfiring, or the ovaries and adrenal glands could be making the hormones incorrectly. Researchers are currently trying to find a gene that could help them understand why some women are more susceptible to developing PCOS.

Eluding diagnosis

For now, doctors must work with the symptoms and other signs they notice, says Caren Solomon, MD, MPH, associate director of women's health research at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "There's not even a universal consensus on the definition of the syndrome," she says. "There is a sense, among physicians, that you know it when you see it."

That doesn't mean that getting the right diagnosis is easy, however. On the contrary, without one test to definitively diagnose PCOS, getting answers remains difficult. Many times, doctors end up pointing to PCOS when they've exhausted other possibilities, says David Ehrmann, MD, an associate professor of endocrinology at the University of Chicago.

"To some extent, it's a diagnosis of exclusion," he says. "You have to exclude a number of conditions that can masquerade as PCOS."

Concocting a cure

Once doctors have finally arrived at the diagnosis, women like Henninger have yet another long road ahead to find the right treatment.

Many doctors, like Ehrmann, design a treatment plan for each patient, depending on the woman's symptoms and her age and stage of life. They may begin by suggesting a regular exercise regimen and a low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss. For women who are markedly overweight and have irregular periods, Futterweit sometimes prescribes metformin, a diabetes medication. It helps the body's cells become more sensitive to insulin's signal to convert sugars into energy. This insulin insensitivity is often associated with PCOS.

To normalize the body's hormones, doctors usually recommend oral contraceptives along with a medication that counteracts male hormones. Women who want to get pregnant wouldn't take these medications. Instead, they can undergo fertility therapy with other drugs or try in vitro fertilization.

Today on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Test your knowledge.
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
birth control pills
Learn about your options.
Is it menopause or something else?
woman in bathtub
bp app on smartwatch and phone
estrogen gene

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Blood pressure check
hot water bottle on stomach
Attractive young woman standing in front of mirror