Background: In polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), changes in physical appearance, menstrual disturbances and infertility result in psychological distress and reduced quality-of-life. Metformin improves biochemical, clinical and reproductive parameters in PCOS women. In a prospective, observational study, we analysed the effects of metformin treatment on health-related quality-of-life (HRQL), emotional well-being and sexuality in PCOS. No placebo-treated control group was included.
Methods: Before, during and after 6 months of treatment, changes in clinical and endocrine parameters, quality-of-life, psychological disturbances and sexuality were assessed in 64 PCOS patients using validated questionnaires (SF-36, SCL-90-R) and visual analogue scales. Patients were also compared with published normative data for the validated questionnaires.
Results: During treatment, HRQL, particularly the psychosocial aspects (indicated by significant increases in SF-36 scales Vitality, Social Function, Emotional Role Function, Mental Health, Psychological Sum scale) and emotional well-being (reflected by significant lowering of SCL-90-R scales) improved. These improvements in HRQL were significantly correlated with a reduction in body weight and significantly more pronounced in patients with normalized menstrual cycles. In addition, PCOS women were significantly more satisfied with their sex life and reported higher frequencies of sexual intercourse following treatment.
Conclusion: Treatment can improve the psychosocial, emotional and psychosexual situation of PCOS patients. Although at least some of these effects may be related to the reduction of individual clinical symptoms (i.e. weight loss, normalization of menstrual disturbances, improvement of acne), this observational study does not allow us to clearly discern the role of symptom constellation and does not preclude non-specific and/or placebo effects. Nevertheless, emotional distress and reduced quality-of-life are clearly not an inevitable consequence of PCOS and should be considered as adjunct treatment goals in future studies.