Current perspectives of insulin resistance and polycystic ovary syndrome

Diabet Med. 2011 Dec;28(12):1445-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2011.03460.x.


Aims: To review the relationship between insulin resistance and polycystic ovary syndrome.

Methods: A literature review.

Results: Insulin resistance likely plays a central pathogenic role in polycystic ovary syndrome and may explain the pleiotropic presentation and involvement of multiple organ systems. Insulin resistance in the skeletal muscle of women with polycystic ovary syndrome involves both intrinsic and acquired defects in insulin signalling. The cellular insulin resistance in polycystic ovary syndrome has been further shown to involve a novel post-binding defect in insulin signal transduction. Treatment of insulin resistance through lifestyle therapy or with a diabetes drug has become mainstream therapy in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. However, effects with current pharmacologic treatment with metformin tend to be modest, with limited benefit as an agent to treat infertility. Insulin resistance contributes to increased risk for pregnancy complications, diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk profile in polycystic ovary syndrome, which is further exacerbated by obesity. While numerous studies demonstrate increased prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors in women with polycystic ovary syndrome, there are limited data showing that women with polycystic ovary syndrome are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease events.

Conclusions: Insulin resistance is linked to polycystic ovary syndrome. Further study of lifestyle and pharmacologic interventions that reduce insulin resistance, such as metformin, are needed to demonstrate that they are effective in reducing the risk of diabetes, endometrial abnormalities and cardiovascular disease events in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Fertility*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Metformin / therapeutic use
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Signal Transduction


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Metformin