Polycystic Appearing Ovaries (POA)

Definition - What does Polycystic Appearing Ovaries (POA) mean?

Polycystic-appearing ovaries (PAO) refer to an ultrasound scan image of the ovaries that show multiple fluid-filled, partially mature cysts or follicles. These sacs measure about 4 to 9 mm in diameter. PAO is typically a normal variant of a woman’s ovary, which may or may not be present in a woman with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In comparison, PCOS is a reproductive, metabolic condition with short and long-term health risks. Unlike PCOS, POA does not impact fertility.

Although there may be some similarities in the names of polycystic-appearing ovaries and PCOS, the risks and medical treatments are very different for these two situations.

FertilitySmarts explains Polycystic Appearing Ovaries (POA)

PCOS differs from polycystic-appearing ovaries. A woman has PCOS if she displays at least two of the following features:

  1. Polycystic ovaries on ultrasound.
  2. Irregular periods.
  3. An increase in the male hormone in the blood or associated symptoms such as excess hair growth or acne.

So, if a woman has irregular periods and increased male hormones, she could have PCOS without her ovaries being polycystic. The presence of polycystic ovaries, however, does not necessarily mean that the woman has PCOS.

Why these PAO occur is not clear. However, an abnormal function of the ovarian cells called granulosa cells may trigger PAO. These cells produce a hormone called anti-mullerian hormone, the overproduction of which appears to trigger poly-cysts in the ovaries.

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