Polycystic ovary syndrome : Long-term health aspects

Abstract: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder among women of reproductive age, affecting many aspects of women’s health such as fertility, cardiovascular health and quality of life. However, less is known about later life stages, as well as the impact of hyperandrogenism and PCOS itself, apart from risks associated with excess body weight. The overall aim with this thesis was therefore to study how PCOS, and its hyperandrogenic phenotype, is associated with general health, with focus on diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidaemia and fertility at a longer span of time than during the fertile period.Studies I-III were register-based cohort studies, linking six Swedish national registers. In total, >50 000 women with PCOS and ≈ 250 000 controls were included and followed up for up to 20 years. Study IV was a clinical cross-sectional study including 124 women with PCOS and 74 controls.The main results were that PCOS has a great impact on women’s lives extending beyond the fertile period. While women with PCOS achieve a first childbirth as often as non-PCOS women, they have fewer children overall and give birth at a later age. In addition, PCOS is a moderate risk factor for type 2 diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidaemia, regardless of body weight. The risk appears to be more pronounced in those with the hyperandrogenic phenotype. Finally, hyperandrogenism persists largely in midlife for women with PCOS, both through ongoing symptoms such as hirsutism and by having a negative impact on the women’s quality of life.In conclusion, women with PCOS should be informed that they have a good chance of conceiving, but that some may need assisted reproduction. We suggest that PCOS in general and the hyperandrogenic phenotype in particular be included as independent risk factors when counselling women on their likelihood to suffer from cardiovascular disease and its risk factors in particular such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidaemia.