Polycystic ovary syndrome throughout a woman's life

J Assist Reprod Genet. 2018 Jan;35(1):25-39. doi: 10.1007/s10815-017-1047-7. Epub 2017 Sep 27.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder among reproductive-aged women and the main cause of infertility due to anovulation. However, this syndrome spans the lives of women affecting them from in-utero life until death, leading to several health risks that can impair quality of life and increase morbidity and mortality rates. Fetal programming may represent the beginning of the condition characterized by hyperandrogenism and insulin resistance which leads to a series of medical consequences in adolescence, adulthood, and old age. Menstrual and fertility problems evolve into metabolic complications as age advances. An early and precise diagnosis is important for an adequate management of PCOS, especially at the extreme ends of the reproductive lifespan. However, many different phenotypes are included under the same condition, being important to look at these different phenotypes separately, as they may require different treatments and have different consequences. In this way, PCOS exhibits a great metabolic complexity and its diagnosis needs to be revised once again and adapted to recent data obtained by new technologies. According to the current medical literature, lifestyle therapy constitutes the first step in the management, especially when excess body weight is associated. Pharmacotherapy is frequently used to treat the most predominant manifestations in each age group, such as irregular menses and hirsutism in adolescence, fertility problems in adulthood, and metabolic problems and risk of cancer in old age. Close surveillance is mandatory in each stage of life to avoid health risks which may also affect the offspring, since fetal and post-natal complications seem to be increased in PCOS women.

Keywords: Adolescence; Childhood; Fertility; Perimenopause; Polycystic ovary syndrome; Pregnancy complications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Growth and Development / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Sexual Maturation / physiology
  • Young Adult