Polycystic ovary syndrome: definition, aetiology, diagnosis and treatment

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2018 May;14(5):270-284. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2018.24. Epub 2018 Mar 23.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine and metabolic disorders in premenopausal women. Heterogeneous by nature, PCOS is defined by a combination of signs and symptoms of androgen excess and ovarian dysfunction in the absence of other specific diagnoses. The aetiology of this syndrome remains largely unknown, but mounting evidence suggests that PCOS might be a complex multigenic disorder with strong epigenetic and environmental influences, including diet and lifestyle factors. PCOS is frequently associated with abdominal adiposity, insulin resistance, obesity, metabolic disorders and cardiovascular risk factors. The diagnosis and treatment of PCOS are not complicated, requiring only the judicious application of a few well-standardized diagnostic methods and appropriate therapeutic approaches addressing hyperandrogenism, the consequences of ovarian dysfunction and the associated metabolic disorders. This article aims to provide a balanced review of the latest advances and current limitations in our knowledge about PCOS while also providing a few clear and simple principles, based on current evidence-based clinical guidelines, for the proper diagnosis and long-term clinical management of women with PCOS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperandrogenism / diagnosis
  • Hyperandrogenism / drug therapy
  • Hyperandrogenism / etiology
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Metabolic Diseases / diagnosis
  • Metabolic Diseases / drug therapy
  • Metabolic Diseases / etiology
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / etiology*