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Am J Med. 2001 Dec 1;111(8):602-6.

Polycystic ovaries in Hirsute women with normal menses.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York 10032, USA.



Hirsute women with normal ovulatory menstrual function are often diagnosed as having idiopathic hirsutism. We prospectively evaluated 62 hirsute ovulatory women to determine if they had a subtle form of polycystic ovary syndrome, and if they exhibited any of the metabolic abnormalities commonly associated with classic polycystic ovary syndrome.


Baseline hormonal profiles, ovarian responses to gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist, and ovarian morphology by ultrasound were compared in the hirsute women and two groups of ovulatory controls.


Among 62 women, only 8 (13%) had normal androgen levels and were considered to have idiopathic hirsutism. Twenty-four (39%) had characteristic polycystic ovaries on ultrasound, an exaggerated response of 17-hydroxyprogesterone to leuprolide, or both, suggesting ovarian hyperandrogenism and the diagnosis of mild polycystic ovary syndrome. The remaining 30 women (48%) were considered to have unspecified hyperandrogenism. Age, body weight, and androgen level were similar among the hyperandrogenic subgroups. However, when compared with both normal and overweight controls and with patients with idiopathic hirsutism, the women who had mild polycystic ovary syndrome had higher fasting insulin levels [P < 0.01, mean (+/- SD) increase of 7 +/- 3 microU/mL], lower glucose-insulin ratios (P < 0.01, mean reduction of 3 +/- 1.5), higher low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (P < 0.05, mean increase of 26 +/- 10 mg/dL), and lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels (P < 0.01, mean reduction of 10 +/- 4 mg/dL). Compared with patients who had unspecified hyperandrogenism, these women also had higher fasting insulin levels (P < 0.05), lower glucose-insulin ratios (P < 0.05), and lower HDL cholesterol levels (P < 0.05).


These data suggest that mild polycystic ovary syndrome is more common than idiopathic hirsutism, and it is also associated with subtle metabolic abnormalities.

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