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Feature Article

Polycystic ovary syndrome. Can we make the diagnosis and management easier?

Vicki Nisenblat, Robert J Norman

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Abstract

Polycystic ovary syndrome, a common endocrine disorder in women, has many different presentations, spanning adolescence through to the menopause. Initially placed into the gynaecological realm, it is now also widely accepted as a metabolic disease of uncertain origin and considered as treatable but not curable.

Key Points

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common female endocrine disorder and the leading cause of excessive androgen production, impaired ovulation and infertility.
  • Fundamental problems of PCOS including hyperandrogenism, hyperinsulinaemia, abnormal serum lipid levels and obesity have broad long-term health implications, including an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • PCOS is a highly variable condition with a broad spectrum of symptoms, and the diagnosis can often be delayed.
  • The aetiology of PCOS is still obscure but is most likely multifactorial with a strong genetic component.
  • Effective lifestyle modifications improve pregnancy rates and metabolic profiles in most patients with PCOS without the need for medical intervention.
  • GPs are well placed to make an early diagnosis of PCOS and provide education and management to help patients avoid the long-term consequences of this condition.

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