PCOS Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder affecting approximately 1 in 10 people in their reproductive years. PCOS symptoms include weight gain, ovarian cysts, and irregular menstrual cycles. The condition is related to higher than usual levels of a hormone called androgens that can lead to excess facial hair, acne, and other physical changes.

PCOS can be challenging to treat and is associated with increased risks for miscarriage and infertility, liver problems, depression and anxiety, and heart problems. Individuals with PCOS are 4 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and twice as likely to develop metabolic syndrome.

This article provides an overview of important facts and statistics about PCOS, from prevalence to symptoms to screening options.

PCOS diagnosis

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PCOS Overview

Cysts on the ovaries are a hallmark of PCOS. However, some individuals with PCOS do not have polycystic ovaries, and some individuals have cysts on their ovaries who do not have PCOS.

A polycystic ovary is an ovary that contains many small cysts (fluid-filled sacs). These cysts can interfere with egg release during a normal reproductive cycle.

During ovulation, reproductive hormones signal the ovaries to release a mature egg. Individuals with PCOS, however, have abnormal hormone levels that prevent follicles from growing and maturing to release an egg. Ultrasounds may show ovaries with 12 or more immature follicles.

How Common Is PCOS?

PCOS is the most common endocrine disorder among people with uteruses who are of reproductive age. Nearly 10% of people with ovaries will be affected by PCOS during their reproductive years.

PCOS also increases the risk of certain complications. Nearly half of women with PCOS develop prediabetes or type 2 diabetes before they turn 40. Individuals with PCOS are also at increased risk for stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and high cholesterol, especially if they are overweight.

PCOS accounts for most cases of infertility related to lack of ovulation. People with PCOS also have higher anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders than individuals without PCOS.

PCOS by the Numbers

PCOS affects individuals of reproductive age from all races and ethnicities.

There is limited research on PCOS by ethnicity or region, but one large-scale study found that PCOS may vary by location. Researchers noted that PCOS was most common in the southern United States (47.5% of cases), followed by North Central (23%), West (18.7%), and the Northeast (10.3%).

Other research suggests that no single race or ethnic group is at higher risk of developing PCOS than any other. However, factors like access to health care, other risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic problems, and obesity may affect some populations more than others, which could complicate PCOS diagnosis and management.

Causes of PCOS and Risk Factors

The causes of PCOS aren't well understood. Researchers have suggested that an interplay of genetic, lifestyle and health factors leads to an imbalance in the endocrine system, resulting in high levels of androgens, irregular periods, and other physical symptoms.

More than half of people with PCOS are obese or overweight, and some research suggests that obesity and insulin resistance may be related to PCOS. However, it's unclear if PCOS causes obesity or the other way around.

Genetics also plays a role. Several gene variations have been noted in individuals with PCOS, but the link isn't universal. Instead, it is believed that a combination of certain genetic predispositions combined with lifestyle and health factors increases the likelihood of PCOS.

PCOS and Heredity

Between 20% and 40% of individuals with PCOS also have a mother or sister with the condition. It's unclear whether this link is due to genetic variations or if individuals who are related share similar lifestyle factors.

Screening and Early Detection

Many people don't know they have PCOS until they start trying to become pregnant. Others experience symptoms at a young age.

PCOS is diagnosed when an individual has at least two of the following:

  • Many cysts on the ovaries (polycystic ovaries)
  • High levels of androgens
  • Irregular periods

Symptoms of PCOS result from these features. The classic triad includes obesity, hirsutism (excess facial hair), and anovulation (when the body doesn't ovulate or release a mature egg).

More than 75% of individuals do not receive a timely diagnosis from their healthcare provider. This is especially concerning because of the impact that PCOS can have on fertility, mood, and quality of life.

In addition to speaking with your healthcare provider, there are new at-home kits that can help detect certain markers of PCOS.


PCOS is a challenging and complex condition that affects millions of people in the United States. It is a leading cause of infertility and increases the risk for many other health problems, from stroke to heart disease to diabetes.

Speak to your healthcare provider if you are concerned about your risk for PCOS, especially if you have a mother or sister with the condition. It's also important to check with your provider if you are experiencing common symptoms of PCOS, like acne, obesity, fatigue, irregular periods, or unusual facial hair.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. MedlinePlus. Polycystic ovary syndrome.

  4. Centers for Disease Control. PCOS and diabetes.

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By Elizabeth Morrill, RN
Elizabeth Morrill is a former ER nurse and current nurse writer specializing in health content for businesses, patients, and healthcare providers. Her career has spanned the globe, from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Colombia to Guatemala. You can find her online at www.emfreelancing.com.