Insulin resistance in polycystic ovary syndrome: treating a phenotype without a genotype

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 1998 Oct 25;145(1-2):103-10. doi: 10.1016/s0303-7207(98)00176-2.


PCOS women are uniquely insulin resistant. The underlying genetic defect in insulin action is unknown. Obesity aggravates the underlying predisposition to insulin resistance. Diagnostic criteria which focus on menstrual irregularity are more likely to identify insulin resistant women. About 40% of PCOS women display glucose intolerance (either impaired glucose tolerance or type 2 diabetes) in response to an oral glucose challenge. The lack of a clear etiologic mechanism to the syndrome has led to a multitude of symptom-oriented treatments with few therapies improving all aspects of the endocrine syndrome of PCOS. Empirical studies of interventions improving insulin sensitivity in PCOS, either weight loss/diet programs or pharmaceutical agents, have been shown to improve the endocrine abnormalities in the syndrome. These initial results with anti-diabetic agents, though promising, need to be confirmed in larger, randomized studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Glucose Intolerance / genetics
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Insulin Resistance* / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / genetics
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / therapy
  • Prevalence
  • Weight Loss


  • Hypoglycemic Agents