Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is the major endocrinopathy among reproductive-aged women. It affects 4%–20% of women of reproductive age worldwide and yet it is not perceived as an important health problem in the world. The variability in symptoms and how they present in different people means that up to 75%of women with PCOS do not receive a diagnosis for their condition.
This is significant because PCOS is linked to other serious health conditions, such as metabolic and cardiovascular comorbidities, infertility, pregnancy complications, psychological disorders, and cancer. The long-term cost of treating the health effects of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)—$4.3 billion—is even higher than $3.7 billion it takes to diagnose and treat the immediate issues that present for women who are of reproductive age.
No single diagnostic test exists to diagnose PCOS. Instead doctors must rely on symptom manifestation, a physical exam, hormonal blood values and sometimes a pelvic ultrasound to determine whether PCOS, and not another condition, is causing the array of signs and symptoms. This is because the exact cause of PCOS remains unknown.
PCOS presents differently depending on the phenotype. The phenotypic division of patients with PCOS-related infertility can help in prognosticating the severity of the disease and the fertility outcome. Which means lumping women with PCOS together is an inefficient way of proceeding in order to give them the treatment that best suits their condition.
Additionally, only a third of women surveyed with PCOS reported feeling satisfied with their overall diagnostic experience. 35% said they saw three or four health professionals before finding someone who could help, and 12% saw five or more health professionals. 43% of women were diagnosed within six months of seeking medical attention, approximately 34% said it took more than two years. Current PCOS treatment focuses on managing “individual concerns”, such as infertility, hirsutism, acne or obesity rather than taking a long-term health view of the potential health implications of PCOS. This means there is a huge need and opportunity to innovate the way care for PCOS is delivered – particularly in regards to integrating PCOS into primary care and not simply siloing it as a reproductive issue given its implications for multiple organs in the body.