Beyond fertility: polycystic ovary syndrome and long-term health

Fertil Steril. 2018 Oct;110(5):794-809. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2018.08.021.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a reproductive, endocrine, and metabolic disorder affecting millions of women worldwide. Women with PCOS are often identified in adolescence or early adulthood with symptoms of oligomenorrhea or hirsutism or when presenting for infertility care. The health risks associated out of PCOS, however, go far beyond management of these common presenting symptoms or fertility treatment and likely extend past the reproductive years through and beyond menopause. International surveys suggest that most patients are dissatisfied with long-term counseling related to medical and psychologic issues. We performed a review of comorbidities, including diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, depression, anxiety, obstructive sleep apnea, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, endometrial cancer, and cardiovascular disease, in both reproductive-age and older women with PCOS. Most meta-analyses in reproductive-age women demonstrate increased risks independent from obesity. Longitudinal and cross-sectional studies including women with PCOS >40 years of age are limited in number and design, but many demonstrate that some of these comorbidities persist. All providers involved in the multidimensional care of women with PCOS should be aware of these long-term health risks to provide appropriate counseling, screening, and management options. We identify limitations that should be the focus of future studies designed to study health outcomes in postmenopausal women with PCOS.

Keywords: PCOS; aging; cardiovascular disease; diabetes; menopause.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fertility / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / diagnosis
  • Infertility, Female / epidemiology
  • Infertility, Female / metabolism*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Metabolic Diseases / diagnosis
  • Metabolic Diseases / epidemiology
  • Metabolic Diseases / metabolism*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Time Factors
  • Women's Health / trends*