Polycystic ovary syndrome: a major unrecognized cardiovascular risk factor in women

Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Fall;2(4):232-9.


The prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is estimated to be nearly 10% among reproductive-age women. PCOS may represent the largest underappreciated segment of the female population at risk of cardiovascular disease. Clinicians providing care to women of childbearing age must recognize the presenting clues, including irregular menses, hirsutism, alopecia, hyperandrogenemia, and obesity. The pathophysiology of PCOS is complex, involving the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis, ovarian theca cell hyperplasia, hyperinsulinemia, and a multitude of other cytokine- and adipocyte-driven factors. Cardiac risk factors associated with PCOS have public health implications and should drive early screening and intervention measures. There are no consensus guidelines regarding screening for cardiovascular disease in patients with PCOS. Fasting lipid profiles and glucose examinations should be performed regularly. Carotid intimal medial thickness examinations should begin at age 30 years, and coronary calcium screening should begin at age 45 years. Treatment of the associated cardiovascular risk factors, including insulin resistance, hypertension, and dyslipidemia, should be incorporated into the routine PCOS patient wellness care program.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Carotid intimal medial thickness; Coronary calcium screening; Diabetes; Obesity; Polycystic ovary syndrome.