New hope for teenage sufferers of polycystic ovary syndrome

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DOCTORS HAVE discovered a new treatment for teenage girls suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome. The condition, which affects one in five women, is particularly stressful for teenage girls as it can lead to weight gain, irregular periods, facial hair, and, in the most extreme cases, infertility.

The disorder, caused by elevated levels of the male hormone testosterone, leads to the ovaries being covered in tiny fluid-filled cysts. The cysts can be detected by an ultrasound, but most women do not know they have the condition until they experience problems conceiving. It is genetic and to date there has been no cure.

Women who suffer from the condition are given drugs to help them conceive. Hormone treatment can stimulate the ovaries to create the correct hormonal balance, to enable one follicle to grow and create an egg, but can lead to a multiple pregnancy, as in the case of Mandy Allwood who conceived octuplets. Diane Modahl, the athlete, also suffers from the condition.

Researchers from University College London and the Middlesex Hospital have successfully treated young girls with the disorder using a drug normally used to treat diabetics. They will present their findings today at the Society of Endocrinology's annual meeting in London. This preliminary study is the first British trial on teenagers and shows benefits in reducing weight and improving menstruation.

The researchers gave teenage girls suffering from the condition doses of the diabetic drug, Metformin, for six months. No special dietary advice was given, although the benefits of exercise and weight reduction were explained.

Previous research has shown that sufferers have more difficulty in metabolising glucose, so have a higher risk of developing diabetes in later life.

Young girls are often put on the contraceptive pill to try and regulate their periods, but some have an adverse reaction, and this method may not be appropriate for obese teenagers, the researchers said.

After six months, nearly half of the patients had reduced their weight and two-thirds had more regular periods. "Metformin promises to be an effective, safe and inexpensive treatment for girls suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome," they concluded.