January 25, 2020
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Beyond reproductive years, women with PCOS report poor quality of life, health status

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Terhi T. Piltonen

A cohort of unselected women with polycystic ovary syndrome reported a health-related quality of life at midlife comparable to that of women with other chronic conditions, such as asthma, migraine, rheumatoid arthritis and depression, according to findings published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

“Most of the previously conducted studies assessing quality of life in PCOS have been small and have primarily included women of reproductive age selected from PCOS clinics,” Terhi T. Piltonen, MD, PhD, associate professor and senior consultant in the department of obstetrics and gynecology, reproductive endocrinology and IVF unit at the Medical Research Centre, University of Oulu, Finland, and colleagues wrote in the study background. “These studies have not included follow-up. Moreover, no studies on the impact of individual PCOS symptoms exist.”

Pilotnen and colleagues analyzed follow-up data at age 31 and 46 years from women who were part of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966, a longitudinal, community-based dataset made up of all individuals born in 1966 in the Northern Finland area (5,889 women). At both time follow-up visits, women completed the 15D questionnaire, a measure of health-related quality of life with 15 dimensions, and questionnaires about current life satisfaction and health status. Current psychological distress was assessed using the Hopkins Symptoms Checklist-25. Socioeconomic status was based on education level. Primary outcomes were 15D questionnaire scores on life satisfaction and self-reported health status.

The final analysis group at age 31 years consisted of 2,181 asymptomatic women (controls), 331 women with oligomenorrhea, 323 women with hirsutism and 125 women with PCOS.

Doctor female patient general 2019 
A cohort of unselected women with polycystic ovary syndrome reported a health-related quality of life at midlife comparable to that of women with other chronic conditions, such as asthma, migraine, rheumatoid arthritis and depression.
Source: Adobe Stock

Researchers found that health-related quality of life was lower at age 31 and 46 years among women with PCOS or hirsutism compared with controls. PCOS was an independent risk factor for low health-related quality of life, and the decrease in health-related quality of life with PCOS was comparable to that of women with other chronic health conditions.

The risk for low health-related quality of life in PCOS persisted after adjustment for BMI, hyperandrogenism and socioeconomic status. Mental distress was the strongest contributing factor to health-related quality of life.

“PCOS was also associated with a risk for low life satisfaction and a fourfold risk for reporting a poor health status,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers noted that it is important clinicians screen women for the most burdensome factors related to PCOS, namely mental distress.

“For example, hirsutism was shown to be a significant factor in lowering quality of life, indicating that more attention in clinical care is warranted for this symptom,” the researchers wrote. “The symptoms and worries of women with PCOS should be discussed and treated effectively, favoring a multidisciplinary approach. Most importantly, further studies investigating and developing the most effective means to improve health-related quality of life in women with PCOS are necessary.” – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.