Polycystic Ovary Syndrome linked to raised risks

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: woman walks away from camera into winter trees

Women who suffer from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome are at much higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, mental health conditions, reproductive disorder and cancer of the lining of the womb, researchers at The University of Western Australia have found.

The findings were published in the international journal JCEM (The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism).

Lead researcher, Professor Roger Hart from UWA’s School of Women’s and Infants’ Health, says Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS as it is commonly called, affects up to one in seven women.

The symptoms of PCOS can include excess hair, hair loss, acne, weight gain, difficulties with fertility, increased anxiety and depression and symptoms associated with menstrual periods.

Prof Hart says the researchers used data linkage in Western Australia to follow 2,566 women aged15 and older who were diagnosed with PCOS during a hospital visit in WA between 1997 and 2011and compared them to women without PCOS.

“Our study suggests that women with a diagnosis of PCOS have twice as many hospital admissions as women without PCOS,” he says.

“They are at an increased incidence of late onset diabetes (even when controlling for obesity), obesity, elevated blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

“They were also at an increased risk of psychological morbidity; with more admissions for depression and anxiety disorder, more recreational drug-related incidents and more hospital admissions for self-harm.

“They were 10 times more likely to have a diagnosis of infertility recorded during a hospital admission, require fertility investigation and eight times more likely to undergo a procedure for fertility treatment, at an increased risk of endometrial cancer, even in a relatively young population, but were less likely to develop cervical cancer.”

Prof Hart says the study suggests PCOS has profound implications for women with regard to reproductive function in the short term and in the longer term the risk of chronic illness.

“As only a quarter of the women studied had reached 40 years of age, the actual percentage of women with these conditions was low, however it would be expected that as the women with PCOS age, metabolic risk will increase,” he says.

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