PCOS: Why Definitions Matter

Broad definition of polycystic ovary syndrome could change treatment decisions

(RxWiki News) When it comes to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), words can make a big impact on patients' lives, according to a new study.

More specifically, using a broad definition of PCOS and several other conditions might cause some patients to experience fear and anxiety. And that could spur patients to ask for aggressive treatment strategies for diseases that pose few serious health risks.

This study, which included data from seven past studies, found that patients were more likely to prefer more invasive treatment strategies when they were told they had a specific condition like PCOS. That's despite the fact that, under a more narrow definition of the condition, the patients might not have been diagnosed with it.

PCOS is a disorder involving the hormones that causes ovaries to enlarge and form small cysts. It can lead to abnormal menstruation, weight gain and, in some cases, infertility. The cause of PCOS is not well-understood.

Treatments for PCOS range from exercising and losing weight to taking medications, which can cause side effects.

According to this study, women whose health care providers used different terminology that didn't necessarily name the specific condition were more likely to be open to less invasive treatment options. Overtreatment is a recognized health care issue that can lead to negative psychological, as well as physical, effects for patients.

If you are worried that you might have PCOS, discuss the issue with your health care provider to identify the best next steps for you.

This study was published in the journal BMJ Open.

The National Health and Medical Research Council funded this research. The authors disclosed no potential conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
August 24, 2017