Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are African American women more likely to have polycistic ovaries?"
I am a 27 year old African American woman. Am I at higher risk? Should I get checked up about this?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a spectrum of disease but the primary characteristics include hyperandrogenism (symptoms of increased testosterone such as increased hair and acne), irregular menstrual cycles, polycystic ovaries, obesity, and insulin resistance. It is one of the main causes of abnormal ovulation and increased androgen symptoms in women. PCOS is a fairly common endocrinologic disorder in women of reproductive age, affecting about 4-12% of the population. Some sources show that Caucasians and African-Americans may have a lower incidence of PCOS as compared to Native Americans and some Latino populations, but this comparison is not clear. While you may not have an increased risk of developing PCOS being an African American woman, if you have any concerning symptoms on discussion with your primary care physician, the diagnosis should be entertained. Again, PCOS is a syndrome and each patient will present differently with a varying combination of the primary characteristics. Because of this, it is often difficult to diagnose. PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in women, but the other main complications include Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, metabolic syndrome, and possible cardiovascular disease. Specific treatment is aimed at a patient's symptoms. If you have any concerns that you may have PCOS or you have abnormal menstrual cycles without another identified cause, you should speak to your primary care physician about your symptoms and consider and endocrinology consultation.