Review of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in women with polycystic ovary syndrome

World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Oct 21;20(39):14172-84. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i39.14172.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder in reproductive-aged women. Women with PCOS frequently have metabolic complications including insulin resistance (IR), early diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia. Recent studies have demonstrated an association between PCOS and another metabolic complication: nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD occurs as a result of abnormal lipid handling by the liver, which sensitizes the liver to injury and inflammation. It can progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is characterized by hepatocyte injury and apoptosis. With time and further inflammation, NASH can progress to cirrhosis. Thus, given the young age at which NAFLD may occur in PCOS, these women may be at significant risk for progressive hepatic injury over the course of their lives. Many potential links between PCOS and NAFLD have been proposed, most notably IR and hyperandrogenemia. Further studies are needed to clarify the association between PCOS and NAFLD. In the interim, clinicians should be aware of this connection and consider screening for NAFLD in PCOS patients who have other metabolic risk factors. The optimal method of screening is unknown. However, measuring alanine aminotransferase and/or obtaining ultrasound on high-risk patients can be considered. First line treatment consists of lifestyle interventions and weight loss, with possible pharmacologic interventions in some cases.

Keywords: Fatty liver; Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis; Polycystic ovary syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / diagnosis
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / epidemiology*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / physiopathology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / therapy
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / therapy
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors