How common is polycystic ovary syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common female endocrine disorders, affecting approximately 10-15% of women of reproductive age (12–45 years old) and is thought to be one of the leading causes of female subfertility.
The principal features are obesity, anovulation (resulting in irregular menstruation) or amenorrhea, acne, and excessive amounts or effects of androgenic (masculinising) hormones. The symptoms and severity of the syndrome vary greatly among women. While the causes are unknown, insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity are all strongly correlated with PCOS.
Common symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome include:
- Menstrual disorders, mostly oligomenorrhea or amenorrhea but other types of menstrual disorders may
- Infertility, generally resulting from chronic anovulation (lack of ovulation).
- Hirsutism (excessive hairiness), and/or symptoms of hyper-androgenism, such as acne.
- Metabolic syndrome, characterised by central obesity, insulin resistance and other symptoms.
Medical treatment of PCOS is tailored to the patient’s goals. Broadly, these may be considered in four categories:
- Lowering of insulin levels
- Restoration of fertility
- Treatment of hirsutism or acne
- Restoration of regular menstruation, and prevention of endometrial hyperplasia and endometrial cancer
General interventions that help to reduce weight or insulin resistance can be beneficial for all of these aims, because they address what is believed to be the underlying cause.