Polycystic Ovary Syndrome More Prevalent than Thought, Has Serious Impact on Mood
By Koren Capozza
Special to DG News
SAN FRANCISCO, CA — June 21, 2002 — Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine abnormality in women of reproductive age. New research suggests that it is even more prevalent than previously thought.
Characterized by irregular periods, hair growth, acne and infertility, PCOS is believed to be linked to the excessive production of male hormones in women.
Researchers from University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), in the United States, screened 402 subjects for PCOS. The patients were participating in a pre-employment medical exam. The syndrome was confirmed by the presence of menstrual dysfunction, abnormally high systemic androgen concentrations and/or excess body or facial hair.
Among the 402 subjects surveyed, 22 had confirmed PCOS while 43 women had at least one symptom of the syndrome. The researchers estimate that the prevalence of PCOS in women of reproductive age is 8.9 percent – over double the figure previously estimated.
“We hope this raises physician awareness about this disease because it is more prevalent than previously reported,” said co-author Keslie Woods, PhD. Her findings were presented here today at the Annual Endocrinology Society Meeting (ENDO).
“Because it’s a syndrome, it’s actually a collection of different conditions so its harder to recognize and important for physicians to treat patients for their individual needs,” she said.
Women with PCOS can also experience severe mood disorders and low self-esteem, in addition to the physical. This aspect of PCOS has been traditionally overlooked, said Raquel Huerta, Ph.D., of the University of Guanajuato in Mexico and lead author of study on androgen levels and mood.
Dr. Huerta’s study compared the mood and self-esteem of 14 healthy women to 64 women with various degrees of high androgen levels (HAL), a hallmark of PCOS. The mean age was 23 years.
The researchers divided the symptomatic women into one of three groups depending on the amount of clinical and laboratory data that supported a HAL diagnosis. Clinical symptoms included menstrual cycle disturbances, abnormal hair growth, obesity, acne and anovulation/infertility.
One group contained women with two clinical and/or one laboratory data indicative of HAL, the second group women with two clinical and/or two laboratory data and the third women with three or more clinical and/or three or more laboratory data.
Dr. Huerta measured the women’s mood and self esteem changes using DSM-IV mayor depression criteria, two depression severity scales, an anxiety severity scale and a self-esteem evaluation instrument. In addition, the subjects’ social motivation was measured with a self-evaluation scale (SASS) and sexual and androgenic hormones were gauged using RIA Kits.
She found that women in the fourth group scored the lowest on self-esteem tests and the highest on depression evaluations. In addition, these women had a higher body mass index and a higher percentage of body fat. However, the results showed no significant difference between the groups on anxiety scores.
“These physical changes have a profound effect on self-image. They hesitate about their roles as wives and mothers and their mood state changes as a result,” said Dr. Huerta.
The medical community needs to be aware of the psychological impact of these conditions in order to provide the necessary support and counselling that POCS patients need, she noted.