Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS will typically have higher androgen levels, which results in excessive hair growth, acne, and irregular periods. This means that they ovulate less frequently, causing implications for the woman’s fertility. The condition manifests differently in each person, with some women having few mild symptoms and others having a range of more severe symptoms, significantly impacting their quality of life. The heterogeneous nature of PCOS symptoms and lack of a known aetiology contribute to the common difficulty in diagnosing the disorder, which can cause significant mental health challenges for women who may be experiencing symptoms.

Currently, clinicians in the UK can only base the diagnosis of PCOS on the clinical knowledge summary provided by the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (Nice). The current clinical knowledge summary suggests suspecting PCOS if a woman has infrequent or no ovulation and presents with an example of hyperandrogenisms such as adult acne or excessive hair growth.

In November 2022, a debate took place in the UK Parliament regarding endometriosis and PCOS support. The debate arose after a petition was signed by over 100,000 people asking the UK Government to increase funding for PCOS research. After receiving support from members of parliament, PCOS charity Verity has developed a call for action based on the concerns and points raised during the debate. The debate focused on the development of clear, streamlined guidelines for PCOS diagnosis that would be implemented by NICE, and would acknowledge the heterogeneous nature of the symptom profile. There should also be a focus on diagnosing and managing PCOS in women, with and without a focus on fertility, in an attempt to acknowledge the varying priorities on women with the condition.

The implementation of the streamlined criteria should be followed by the necessary education for healthcare professionals regarding the implications of PCOS on mental health, ensuring that consistent support for patients with PCOS is available, and focusing on the impact on both the quality of life and fertility.

GlobalData epidemiologists forecast that the total prevalent cases of PCOS in the UK will increase from 303,000 cases in 2023 to 307,000 cases in 2031. However, if the UK government decides to take necessary action, and enforce streamlined NICE guidelines during this time, GlobalData epidemiologists anticipate that the total prevalent cases will increase as diagnosis becomes more efficient, and cases of PCOS that do not fit current criteria are diagnosed.