According to a population-based Finnish study, women with PCOS were more likely to have a myriad of medical conditions, use medications more often, and report poorer health than women who did not have the disorder.
“I have been working on PCOS for over 20 years and during this time I have seen evidence emerge that instead of labeling PCOS as an infertility problem, we should view PCOS as a health risk.” Terhi T. Piltonen, MD, an obstetrics / gynecology and reproductive medicine consultant and clinical researcher at the University of Oulu in Finland, told Healio.
Piltonen and colleagues used data from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 to assess the health risks of 246 women who reported oligomenorrhea, amenorrhea and hirsutism at age 31 and / or a diagnosis of PCOS at age 46. and 1,573 women who had no symptoms of PCOS or a diagnosis by the age of 46.
Participants self-reported their diagnoses and symptoms, general health status, drug use, and use of health services through questionnaires administered at age 46.
A higher percentage of women with PCOS reported hypertension (30.4% versus 17.9%); type 2 diabetes mellitus (6.7% vs 2.2%); depression (20.5% vs 14%); migraine (34.2% vs 24.7%); osteoarthritis of the knee, back or shoulder (26.8% vs 18.1%); fractures (24.5% versus 16.8%); gestational diabetes (30.2% vs 25.1%); preeclampsia (15.5% vs 8.7%) and endometriosis (13.4% vs 8.4%) compared to women who did not have PCOS.
Adjustment for BMI, physical activity, education, marital status, alcohol consumption, and smoking revealed that women with PCOS were significantly more likely to report hypertension (adjusted OR = 1.76; 95% CI, 1.27- 2.44), any osteoarthritis (aOR = 1.66; 95% CI, 1.2-2.29), migraine (aOR = 1.58; 95% CI, 1.17-2.13), tendonitis ( aOR = 1.81; 95% CI, 1.22-2.68) and endometriosis (aOR = 1.81; 95% CI, 1.19 -2.76).
Women with PCOS were also more likely to have autoimmune diseases – such as joint pain (aOR = 1.46; 95% CI, 1.1-1.94) and joint swelling (aOR = 1.49; 95% CI, 1 , 05-2.11) – and recurrent upper respiratory tract infections and tract symptoms, such as multiple incidences of pneumonia (aOR = 1.91; 95% CI, 1.28-2.86) and being more susceptible to infections than to other people (aOR = 2.13; 95% CI, 1.28-3.54).
Overall, women with PCOS had a higher risk of morbidity than their counterparts, even when correcting for confounding factors (RR = 1.37; 95% CI, 1.17-1.6). Notably, women with PCOS were more likely than their counterparts to have five or more comorbidities, while women without PCOS were more likely to have fewer than three comorbidities.
Medicines, health services
Overall, women with PCOS had a higher risk for drug use than those who did not have the disorder (RR = 1.27; 95% CI, 1.08-1.5). Notably, according to the study, they most commonly used drugs that were grouped as “alimentary tract and metabolism”, “dermatological”, “systemic hormone preparations excluding sex hormones and insulin” and “nervous system”.
Despite the higher risk of disease, symptoms, and drug use observed in women with PCOS, there were no significant differences in the number of visits to healthcare professionals between women with and without PCOS (OR = 1.18; 95% CI, 0.998 -1.393).
Piltonen said PCOS should be diagnosed early, which “means that diagnostic criteria and tools should be well recognized, accepted and adopted into clinical practice.”
In addition to developing these tools, Piltonen said researchers should evaluate the impact of PCOS after menopause.