Q&A: Medical, analysis objectives for PCOS Consciousness Month

September 01, 2022

6 min learn


Healio Interviews

Dunaif stories no related monetary disclosures.

September is designated Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Consciousness Month to boost consciousness of the reproductive situation.

Based on the HHS Workplace on Ladies’s Well being, about 10% of girls of childbearing age are affected by PCOS. Nonetheless, the exact reason for PCOS is unknown, however each elevated androgen ranges and insulin resistance might play a task in its improvement. It additionally has a mess of signs, a few of which embody irregular menses and hair progress, making it difficult to define.


Regardless of this, PCOS remedy prices almost $8 billion yearly in the USA, with the direct psychological well being prices of the syndrome exceeding $6 billion yearly.

We spoke with Andrea Dunaif, MD, co-editor of Healio | Endocrine In the present day, the Lillian and Henry M. Stratton Professor of Molecular Medication on the Icahn College of Medication at Mount Sinai and chief of the Hilda and J. Lester Gabrilove Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Bone Illness for the Mount Sinai Well being System in New York Metropolis, to be taught extra about PCOS, its impression on follow and motion for the longer term.

Healio: Why is it vital to boost consciousness about PCOS?

Dunaif: Consciousness of PCOS is excessive within the OB/GYN neighborhood as a result of its typical presentation is as a reproductive dysfunction. Lengthy and irregular intervals are a typical purpose for girls to hunt care. PCOS is the commonest reason for irregular menses. Gynecologists will see ladies with PCOS of their teenagers and 20s. It is usually the commonest reason for infertility associated to ovulatory dysfunction. I believe what’s underappreciated is the truth that PCOS additionally has metabolic and psychological well being implications. Ladies with PCOS — significantly with what we name the NIH phenotype of irregular menstrual cycles, which is a marker for ovulatory dysfunction, and proof of excessive male hormone ranges, hyperandrogenism — are at elevated threat for insulin resistance and its medical penalties, metabolic syndrome and kind 2 diabetes. As well as, though it has not been definitively confirmed, the danger for cardiovascular occasions, akin to strokes and coronary heart assaults, seems to be elevated in ladies with PCOS. Consequently, it is extremely vital for girls with PCOS to have preventive care aimed toward lowering threat for opposed metabolic outcomes, both from gynecologists and ladies’s well being physicians, who present this care themselves, or who work in partnership with main care physicians. Anxiousness and melancholy are additionally extra frequent in ladies with PCOS.

The true information deficit about PCOS is amongst specialties aside from OB/GYN. We not too long ago offered a research on the annual assembly of the Endocrine Society in June 2022 utilizing a business insurance coverage database to find out which suppliers care for girls of reproductive age with PCOS prognosis codes. We discovered that these ladies are seeing main care suppliers extra incessantly than OB/GYNs. They’re additionally seeing cardiologists and psychiatrists extra incessantly than ladies with out PCOS. These specialties must be educated about PCOS and its related morbidities.

Healio: What challenges are there in diagnosing and treating PCOS?

Dunaif: There may be plenty of confusion concerning the PCOS diagnostic standards as a result of the consultants argue over them. The primary set of diagnostic standards had been a byproduct of the 1990 NIH- [National Institute of Child Health and Human Development] scientific assembly on PCOS. Specialists attending the assembly accomplished a survey on potential diagnostic standards. The standards receiving probably the most votes — hyperandrogenism and persistent anovulation, with the exclusion of identified issues of the ovary, adrenals or pituitary — turned the so-called NIH diagnostic standards. Polycystic ovarian morphology was not included as a diagnostic criterion as a result of it was already established that this morphology was a nonspecific discovering that was additionally current in 20% to 30% of girls with out reproductive signs. Nonetheless, at a convention sponsored by the European Society of Human Replica and Embryology in Rotterdam in 2003, polycystic ovarian morphology was added as a diagnostic criterion. What turned generally known as the Rotterdam standards require the presence of two of the three diagnostic options of PCOS: hyperandrogenism, persistent anovulation and polycystic ovarian morphology, with the exclusion of identified reproductive issues. The Rotterdam standards embody the NIH standards however embody two extra phenotypes: hyperandrogenism and polycystic ovaries with out persistent anovulation, and persistent anovulation and polycystic ovaries with out hyperandrogenism. Each the NIH and the Rotterdam standards are incessantly known as consensus standards. Nonetheless, they’re based mostly on professional opinion and weren’t developed via a proper consensus course of.

I believe that the various standards and the inclusion of polycystic ovarian morphology within the prognosis has created appreciable confusion concerning the prognosis of PCOS, significantly outdoors OB/GYN. Certainly, there was an NIH-sponsored state-of-the-science assembly in 2012, the Proof-based Methodology Workshop on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. This workshop adopted a consensus-like course of the place the info had been offered to a panel of consultants within the discipline who weren’t engaged in analysis on PCOS. The panel said that the identify PCOS was a distraction and an obstacle to progress. The identify “polycystic ovary syndrome” is a misnomer since there aren’t any cysts within the ovaries. The buildings being labeled as cysts are regular ovarian follicles which can be arrested in improvement. Additional, polycystic ovaries are neither essential nor enough for the prognosis of PCOS. You may definitely meet all the opposite standards and never have polycystic ovaries, and you may have polycystic ovaries and never have the remainder of the syndrome.

As a result of we have no idea the causes of PCOS, our remedy is concentrated on ameliorating the medical options of the syndrome. Accordingly, remedy is focused at signs of androgen extra, mostly hirsutism, but additionally zits and feminine sample hair loss, irregular or rare menses, and infertility. Weight administration is a significant concern for sufferers, significantly within the U.S., the place about 80% to 90% of girls with PCOS are overweight. Discount of metabolic threat is a vital consideration, significantly in overweight ladies with PCOS. Administration ought to embody screening for prediabetes, sort 2 diabetes, and different heart problems threat components, akin to metabolic syndrome. Psychological well being also needs to be thought of given the affiliation of PCOS with anxiousness and melancholy.

There aren’t any FDA-approved medicine for the remedy of PCOS within the U.S. Generally used medicine embody 1) oral contraceptives for signs of androgen extra and regulation of menses; 2) spironolactone, which is extensively used off-label in excessive doses as an anti-androgen; and three) metformin, an oral diabetes drug that’s used off-label to manage menses, restore ovulation and cut back threat for sort 2 diabetes. First-line medicine for ovulation induction are clomiphene citrate or letrozole (off-label) earlier than continuing to assisted reproductive applied sciences. As little as a ten% loss in physique weight improves reproductive options and reduces metabolic threat in PCOS. Metformin has been extensively use in PCOS for weight management. Nonetheless, there may be rising proof that GLP-1 receptor agonists are simpler for weight administration in PCOS.

Healio: How does a affected person’s PCOS prognosis have an effect on the general care their supplier offers them?

Dunaif: Suppliers must be conscious that PCOS is a metabolic in addition to a reproductive dysfunction. Ladies with PCOS, significantly ladies with weight problems who’ve irregular menses and hyperandrogenism (NIH phenotype PCOS), ought to be screened for metabolic abnormalities akin to metabolic syndrome, prediabetes and kind 2 diabetes.

Healio: What work nonetheless must be executed to correctly tackle the burden of PCOS?

Dunaif: There’s a dearth of knowledge on the long-term well being penalties of PCOS. There are very restricted research which have adopted ladies past reproductive age. There have been no gold commonplace potential, longitudinal research of girls with PCOS via their 60s and 70s, ages at which cardiovascular occasions, akin to myocardial infarction and stroke, change into frequent. Potential cohort research have discovered that ladies with lengthy or irregular menstrual cycles throughout their reproductive years have elevated threat for cardiovascular occasions, sort 2 diabetes cancers, together with non-gynecologic cancers and untimely mortality. Since PCOS is the main reason for irregular menstrual cycles, these research spotlight the pressing want to find out the syndrome’s long-term well being dangers. There are quite a few massive cohort research, such because the Physicians’ Well being Research, the Nurses’ Well being Research and the Ladies’s Well being Research. We want a PCOS Well being Research.

Healio: Is there the rest you wish to spotlight about PCOS?

Dunaif: Within the final decade, super progress has been made figuring out pathways inflicting PCOS with trendy genetic analyses. Utilizing these approaches, it has been doable to point out that the present PCOS diagnostic standards, that are based mostly on professional opinion, don’t establish genetically distinct subgroups of PCOS. Nonetheless, utilizing machine studying approaches, discrete subtypes of PCOS have been recognized based mostly on its reproductive and metabolic traits. These subtypes look like related to distinctive genetic loci suggesting the subtypes higher seize the underlying biology. I imagine that we are going to see the sphere transfer towards these data-driven approaches to classification of the issues which can be at present lumped collectively as Rotterdam standards PCOS. Future diagnostic standards might be based mostly on goal biologic variations fairly than subjective opinions.


Polycystic ovary syndrome. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/polycystic-ovary-syndrome. Revealed Feb. 22, 2021. Accessed Aug. 19, 2022.


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