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PCOS diagnosis and treatment guidelines explained

With an updated 2023 guideline, Australia leads the charge in understanding, diagnosing, and treating Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

When it comes to women’s health, certain conditions, sadly, remain undiagnosed, under-researched, and frequently misunderstood. One such condition, which affects an astonishing 13 per cent of women, is finally gaining attention.

In collaboration with international partners, Monash University has unveiled a groundbreaking evidence-based Guideline to change how people approach Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). This isn’t just a step forward – it’s a leap towards understanding, diagnosis, and treatment.

PCOS has been oversimplified for far too long as solely a reproductive issue, but it impacts metabolic, psychological, and even pregnancy-related health. Notably, PCOS is a formidable barrier for many women dreaming of motherhood, Australia’s predominant cause of infertility. With an annual healthcare toll exceeding $800 million in Australia alone, the ripple effect of this condition is undeniable.

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The free, expanded and updated 2023 Guideline and the accompanying intuitive AskPCOS Patient App, were created to serve as a compass for every woman navigating the often-difficult terrains of PCOS.

The Guideline is a global effort, produced with input from over 100 professionals and patients from 71 countries and six continents who contributed their knowledge and experiences. Their united voice has resulted in an enormous, evocative resource with 254 suggestions and practice opportunities.

These include everything from diagnosis to lifestyle, emotional wellbeing, fertility considerations, customised therapies, and PCOS-specific care and support. When compared to its predecessor from 2018, the 2023 guide has substantial improvements.

There is a shift in diagnostic criteria, with hormone tests replacing ultrasounds. It also advocates for personalised health experiences, revealing innovative care tactics, strengthened evidence-based medicines, and an improved approach to pregnancy care.

Professor Helena Teede of Monash University was a key driver behind the revised Guideline. As a prominent global academic in PCOS, she was aware of the issues that need immediate attention, such as increased weight gain, increased risks of diabetes and heart disease, and more effective infertility therapies. 

The essence of this guideline is not just its knowledge but also its empathy in providing PCOS patients with „the healthcare and outcomes they deserve,“ according to Professor Teede. Too often, the focus for treating PCOS is on individual behavioural solutions that fall short, „further impacting health and fertility,“ Teede admits.

This updated Guideline debunks long-held stereotypes, notably those around weight and lifestyle, and „seeks to support those with PCOS and reduce the stigma,“ Teede adds.

Lorna Berry contributed firsthand insights from her experiences with PCOS, including her frustrations, sense of hopelessness, and search for trustworthy information. „Living with PCOS is challenging enough, but the struggle to find reliable information feels like an uphill battle,” she explains, “I fought for my PCOS diagnosis.” 

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Centre of Research Excellence in Women’s Health in Reproductive Life (CRE WHiRL) and the Medical Research Future Fund supported the research. 

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Endocrine Society, Society of Endocrinology, and European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology co-founded the Guideline to usher in a better, more informed future for patients with PCOS.

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