PCOS Puts Women at Greater Risk of COVID-19

Woman suffering from PCOS
Credit: nenetus - stock.adobe.com

According to a recently published study, women with PCOS have a 51% higher risk of COVID-19 infection.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) affects 1 in 10 women during their childbearing years; that is ages 15 to 44. This metabolic condition results in a hormonal imbalance, causing women to have irregular periods, excessive hair growth on face and body, and infertility issues. Moreover, women with PCOS have an increased risk of insulin resistance, diabetes, heart diseases, and obesity. All these PCOS complications are linked to an increased risk of severe COVID-19. However, despite the high prevalence and serious complications, researchers have largely overlooked women with PCOS. Therefore, researchers at the University of Birmingham, UK, aimed to determine whether PCOS can increase a women’s susceptibility to COVID-19.

The higher the metabolic risk is, the higher the risk is to catch Covid-19. People looked at obesity and Type 2 diabetes and hypertension and heart disease, but they have not looked at PCOS systematically before we did. Because they just don’t consider this a metabolic risk factor. That’s something that we would like to change.

Dr. Wiebke Arlt, study author

Using data from The Health Improvement Network primary care database, the researchers conducted a population-based closed cohort study. Between January 2020 to July 2020 the researchers identified a total of 21,924 women with PCOS and matched them with 78,310 women, part of the control group.

Not Just a Reproductive Issue

The results showed a COVID-19 incidence of 18.1 per 1000 person-years among women with PCOS. In comparison, the incidence in those without PCOS was also 11.9 per 1000 person-years. Thus, suggesting a 51% higher risk of COVID-19 among women suffering from PCOS. Even after adjusting for factors such as BMI and age, women with PCOS still had 26% higher susceptibility.

PCOS is completely underestimated in its impact. It’s sort of seen as some reproductive issue that is not clinically relevant. But this is completely wrong … Patients need to be seen as a high-risk population

Dr. Wiebke Arlt, study author

Authors of the study hypothesize that the pro-inflammatory state in PCOS likely contributes to the development of insulin resistance, diabetes, and cardiovascular abnormalities. Moreover, the cytokines, or immune-signaling cells, released as a result of chronic inflammation can cause a cytokine storm in the body. Coupled with COVID-19 infection this can likely cause women to develop severe COVID-19.

In conclusion, researchers suggest that women with PCOS should follow the recommended infection control measures for COVID-19 to prevent infection and complications.


Subramanian, A., Anand, A., Adderley, N. J., Okoth, K., Toulis, K. A., Gokhale, K., Sainsbury, C., O’Reilly, M. W., Arlt, W., & Nirantharakumar, K. (2021). Increased COVID-19 infections in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a population-based study, European Journal of Endocrinology, 184(5), 637-645. Retrieved May 26, 2021, from https://eje.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/eje/184/5/EJE-20-1163.xml


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