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Polycystic ovary syndrome
  1. Stephen Franks
  1. Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Imperial College School of Medicine at St Mary’s, Norfolk Place, London W2 1PG
  1. Professor Franks.

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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the commonest endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age. The classical symptoms are those of hyperandrogenism (hirsutism, persistant acne, androgen dependent alopecia) together with symptoms of anovulation (infertility, amenorrhoea, irregular dysfunctional uterine bleeding).1In the last 10 to 15 years, the use of high resolution pelvic ultrasonography has greatly facilitated identification of polycystic ovaries in women with hirsutism or menstrual disturbance. It is now clear that the range of presenting symptoms of women with polycystic ovaries includes not only non-hirsute women with oligomenorrhoea or amenorrhoea but also hirsute subjects with regular, ovulatory cycles. PCOS occurs in nearly 75% of cases of anovulatory infertility and over 80% of subjects with hirsutism.1 The typical biochemical features of PCOS include hyperandrogenaemia and an increase of serum luteinising hormone (LH) (with normal follicle stimulating hormone) but PCOS is also associated with a characteristic metabolic syndrome that includes hyperinsulinaemia, insulin resistance, and dyslipidaemia.1-4 These features are linked to a significantly increased risk of type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes in later life and women with PCOS may also have a greater chance of developing premature cardiovascular disease.3 5 6

Polycystic ovaries and PCOS

The presence of polycystic ovaries is necessary for the development of the syndrome but not all women with polycystic ovaries have PCOS. The typical …

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