4: Polycystic ovary syndrome

Robert J Norman, Ruijin Wu and Marcin T Stankiewicz
Med J Aust 2004; 180 (3): 132-137.


  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition characterised by menstrual abnormalities and clinical or biochemical features of hyperandrogenism.

  • Features of PCOS may manifest at any age, ranging from childhood (premature puberty), teenage years (hirsutism, menstrual abnormalities), early adulthood and middle life (infertility, glucose intolerance) to later life (diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease).

  • While pelvic ultrasound examination is useful, many women without PCOS have polycystic ovaries; ultrasound evidence is not necessary for the diagnosis.

  • Testing for glucose intolerance and hyperlipidaemia is wise, especially in obese women, as diabetes mellitus is common in PCOS.

  • Lifestyle changes as recommended in diabetes are fundamental for treatment; addition of insulin-sensitising agents (eg, metformin) may be valuable in circumstances such as anovulatory infertility.

  • Infertility can be treated successfully in most women by diet and exercise, clomiphene citrate with or without metformin, ovarian drilling, or ovulation induction with gonadotrophins; in-vitro fertilisation should be avoided unless there are other indications.

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  • Robert J Norman1
  • Ruijin Wu2
  • Marcin T Stankiewicz3

  • Reproductive Medicine Unit of the University of Adelaide (Repromed), Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Adelaide, SA.


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