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Horm Res. 2007;68(5):209-17. Epub 2007 Apr 5.

Current approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome in youth.

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Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY, USA.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrinopathies in reproductive-age women. It often presents during late adolescence but in some cases certain features are evident even before menarche. PCOS is a spectrum of disorders with any combination of oligo/anovulation, clinical and/or biochemical evidence of androgen excess, obesity, insulin resistance and polycystic ovaries on ultrasound. The pathogenesis is unknown; however, it is a complex multigenetic disorder where disordered gonadotropin release, dysregulation of steroidogenesis, hyperinsulinism and insulin resistance play a role. The diagnosis is based on a typical physical exam (acne, hirsutism, obesity, and acanthosis nigricans) and laboratory evidence of hyperandrogenism, such as elevated free testosterone, androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), decreased sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and increased luteinizing hormone (LH). An ovarian ultrasound may detect the multiple cysts. Secondary causes of PCOS need to be excluded. There are several classes of medications correcting different parameters of PCOS that can be used alone or in combination. Oral contraceptive therapy is used to reduce androgen and LH levels with resultant improvement in acne and hirsutism, and the induction of regular menses. Antiandrogens are usually required for a substantial improvement in hirsutism score. Insulin sensitizers such as metformin are a new class of drugs utilized in treatment of PCOS. By improving insulin sensitivity and decreasing insulin levels, they improve the unfavorable metabolic profile of patients with PCOS. Metformin also helps to increase SHBG, decrease androgen levels and induce ovulation. Despite all the available medications, life-style changes are the mainstay of therapy as weight loss and exercise improve all parameters of PCOS without the potential side effects of medication.

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