10 key facts and figures about PCOS

PCOS - 10 main facts
on Thu 20 Feb


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is diagnosed if you have two of three of the following:


  • Blood work showing a high level of androgens (male hormones) or symptoms such as facial or body hair, acne or hair loss
  • Irregular periods
  • Evidence of Polycystic ovaries on ultrasound examination


Although there is no cure for PCOS the condition can be managed and it is vital to do this since, left untreated, it can lead to other serious conditions.


I hope these key facts will give you a concise overview of the condition:


1.  Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) was first described 85 years ago in 1935


2.  1 in 10 women are affected by PCOS making it the most common endocrine disorder in women of childbearing age.


3.  Up to 40% of sisters in one family have some form of the syndrome. Daughters of women who are affected have risk factors for type 2 diabetes even before their first period.


4.  Up to 70% of affected women go unrecognised.


5.  Women with PCOS have 2 to 3 times the risk of getting non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.


6.  50% of women with PCOS develop type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes before the age of 40. I talk about the connection here


7.  A key symptom is having irregular ovulation cycles. These are less than 21 days or greater than 35 days between or less than 8 cycles per year. There is more information about this here.


8.  It is estimated that over 50% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance which is linked with the genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes. Other cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol are more common. There is an increased risk of gestational diabetes and insulin resistance is often flagged by the development of acanthus nigricans.  


9.  Women with PCOS and with absent of very few periods each year are 3 times more likely to develop endometrial cancer. However, this risk can be minimised by inducing a regular withdrawal bleed with progesterone therapy either intermittently or continuously with the mini pill or the Mirena coil or the combined oral contraceptive pill in younger women.


10.  Studies demonstrate that losing between 5% and 10% of initial body weight improves metabolic, physiological and psychological aspects of PCOS. This may help restore of ovulation and fertility in some women.


Please do make every effort to manage your PCOS by organising regular check-ups. If you are under the wing of an endocrinologist your GP will probably only want to see you once a year to check your hormonal levels, blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure.


I hope this has been helpful.


Although every effort is made to ensure that all health advice on this website is accurate and up to date it is for information purposes and should not replace a visit to your doctor or health care professional.


As the advice is general in nature rather than specific to individuals Dr Vanderpump cannot accept any liability for actions arising from its use nor can he be held responsible for the content of any pages referenced by an external link


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