The importance of diagnosing the polycystic ovary syndrome

Ann Intern Med. 2000 Jun 20;132(12):989-93. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-132-12-200006200-00010.


The polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an extremely common disorder that occurs in 4% to 7% of women of reproductive age. Although PCOS is known to be associated with reproductive morbidity and increased risk for endometrial cancer, diagnosis is especially important because PCOS is now thought to increase metabolic and cardiovascular risks. These risks are strongly linked to insulin resistance and are compounded by the common occurrence of obesity, although insulin resistance and its associated risks are also present in nonobese women with PCOS. Women with PCOS are at increased risk for impaired glucose tolerance, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and hypertension. Cardiovascular disease is believed to be more prevalent in women with PCOS, and it has been estimated that such women also have a significantly increased risk for myocardial infarction. Many lipid abnormalities (most notably low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and elevated triglyceride levels) and impaired fibrinolysis are seen in women with PCOS. Early diagnosis of the syndrome and close long-term follow-up and screening for diabetes and cardiovascular disease are warranted. An opportunity exists for preventive therapy, which should improve the reproductive, metabolic, and cardiovascular risks.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anovulation / complications
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications
  • Female
  • Fibrinolysis
  • Glucose Intolerance / complications
  • Humans
  • Hyperandrogenism / complications
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Lipids / blood
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology


  • Lipids