Treating polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) -- the most common hormone disorder in women of child-bearing age -- is costly.
In 2020, diagnosing and treating this disorder cost an estimated $8 billion in the United States, according to a new economic analysis.
PCOS disrupts metabolism, and causes irregular menstrual periods and elevated testosterone levels. It affects between 5% and 20% of U.S. women of reproductive age. PCOS is a leading cause of infertility and is associated with obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
"Although PCOS affects at least one in seven women and leads to over $8 billion in health care costs annually in the United States alone, it is frequently misunderstood or overlooked by clinicians and policymakers," said study author Dr. Carrie Riestenberg. She is a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist based at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"With a better understanding of how to diagnose and treat this common condition effectively, we may be able to reduce the economic burden as well as the impact on women's quality of life," she said in a news release from the Endocrine Society.
For the study, Riestenberg and her team reviewed 29 previously published studies of costs related to PCOS.
The researchers found that most of the cost stemmed from treatment of long-term health conditions brought on by PCOS, as well as pregnancy-related costs.
Among the long-term health conditions were stroke and type 2 diabetes, as well as infertility, abnormal uterine bleeding, menstrual dysfunction and hirsutism, which is the growth of thick, dark hair on areas where men typically grow hair.
Pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and preeclampsia accounted for about 5% of the costs.
The economic burden of treating long-term health conditions related to PCOS (including diabetes and stroke), as well as pregnancy-related costs, is an estimated $4.3 billion a year in the United States, as of 2020, the study found.
"Our results suggest that diagnosing PCOS sooner could help reduce the complications women experience and lower the overall cost of providing care," Riestenberg said. "Increased public awareness of the condition could help improve the quality of care."
The analysis did not include added risks of endometrial, breast and ovarian cancers or mental health issues that women with PCOS face.
The findings were published online Sept. 21 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
To learn more about PCOS, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
SOURCE: Endocrine Society, news release, Sept. 21, 2021