Increased Covid-19 risk for those with PCOS?
Research published this week found that women & people with PCOS are at a significantly increased risk of contracting COVID-19 compared to those without the condition. Understandably this is of concern to us all & while it is wonderful to see PCOS being taken seriously (at long last) the results may have left us with more questions than answers.
To put things in context, the paper looks at the likelihood of catching COVID, based on a primary care database, so it can analyse all women for whom the GP entered a diagnosis of suspected/confirmed COVID into the medical records. This means it only looked at those who were recorded as definitely being symptomatic – not actually all confirmed cases. This type of study cannot tell us whether the women with PCOS more severe outcomes as it did not follow up disease progression nor hospital admittance records. If we cast our minds back to the time this data was recorded, January to June 2020, there was no widespread testing available with patients only tested on hospital admittance so this is why researchers used suspected and confirmed cases as one group.
The main point to take away here is that while there did appear to be an increased prevalence of covid in those with PCOS after accounting for several comorbidities (excluding Obesity) this requires further research. Overall, the study may point to a role for androgen excess and insulin resistance but really, as yet, we don’t know. As we all know, there is a high prevalence of both AE and IR in women with PCOS. Also, androgens in the blood were not measured in the women in the study, so there is no concrete evidence that the 28% increase in risk of covid after adjusting for all listed factors is due to androgen excess.
With regards to vaccines, some of you may be asking yourself if we should be added to the prioritisation lists. While this study suggests it may be worth considering it as an additional metabolic risk factor like others in the vaccination algorithm, e.g. obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension etc. the data does not definitively indicate a more severe course of the disease in those with PCOS, a public health requirement for inclusion. Thus at the moment the answer is no.
So where does this leave us? In the meantime, everyone should follow government and public health guidance. Focus on what you can do to help avoid catching covid such as following social distancing guidelines, do not take unnecessary risks whilst we are still under lockdown and facing high infection levels. If you are particularly concerned, speak to your GP so that they can assess your overall metabolic risk including PCOS. If you need support feel free to access our Facebook Peer Support Group or contact us via social media. We are always happy to help.
Lastly, what the study does highlight is how the metabolic complication of PCOS are often overlooked and it reinforces the need for proper recording & monitoring of metabolic risk factors for women and people with PCOS so that their condition is monitored and more importantly, across the lifespan.
© PCOS VITALITY 2021
 A. Subramanian, A. Anand, N.J. Adderley, K. Okoth, K.A. Toulis, K. Gokhale, C. Sainsbury, M.W. O’Reilly, W. Arlt, K. Nirantharakumar, Increased COVID-19 infections in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a population-based study, Eur. J. Endocrinol. 1 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1530/EJE-20-1163.
DISCLAIMER: NOT MEDICAL ADVICE. IF YOU REQUIRE MEDICAL ADVICE PLEASE CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR. INFORMATION PROVIDED IN GOOD FAITH. PCOS VITALITY DOES NOT RECOMMEND ANY PARTICULAR COURSE OF ACTION FOR PCOS/COVID/VACCINES.