Scientists have now issued guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). There had been much debate in the medical community over various aspects of the condition. In fact, doctors could use any one of three different classification systems to help identify PCOS. In January of 2013, the National Institute on Health raised concerns that even the name of the syndrome was misleading because not all women with PCOS have ovarian cysts.
This syndrome is the most common hormone disorder among women of reproductive age, affecting as many as 5 million women and girls in the United States. PCOS is also a leading cause of infertility among women. This condition can occur in girls as young as 11 years old.
The new guidelines recommend a doctor make a diagnosis of PCOS if a woman has at least two out of three cardinal features of the condition, which are:
- Excessive production of androgen, a male sex hormone
- Anovulation, a condition where the ovary does not release an egg every month, causing irregular menstrual cycles
- The presence of polycystic ovaries, which are the formation of tiny, pearl-sized cysts inside ovaries that contain immature eggs
The Endocrine Society added recommendations to the new guidelines. For example, physicians should assess body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, and blood sugar levels in women with PCOS prior to pregnancy, as women with this condition face a higher risk for gestational diabetes, preterm delivery and preeclampsia worsened by obesity. The physician should keep an eye on the patient’s body mass index and waist circumference. When establishing a diagnosis of PCOS, the physician should assess the patient’s hair and skin for complications including acne and excessive hair growth.
The guidelines appear in the December 2013 issue of Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, a publication of The Endocrine Society, who examines and updates existing guidelines regarding how doctors diagnose and treat patients with endocrine problems. Richard S. Legro, MD, of the Penn State University College of Medicine, and chair of the task force that authored the guideline says that the Endocrine Society’s “recommendations allow physicians to make the diagnosis if clear symptoms are present without resorting to universal hormone tests or ultrasound screening.”