Study suggests link between ovary disorder and poor lung function

Test results showed around one in 10 women with PCOS were more likely to have lower lung function, compared to those who did not have it.

Women affected by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – a common cause of female infertility – are at a slightly higher risk of having breathing difficulties, research suggests.

Tests on women with PCOS, combined with their genetic information, indicated they are more likely to develop shortness of breath and poor respiratory health associated with a lower lung capacity.

But researchers from Imperial College London say the findings, presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress, require further investigation to establish a firm link between PCOS and poor lung function.

PCOS, believed to affect around one in every five women in the UK, can cause irregular periods, infertility and a variety of other symptoms.

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown but it is thought to be related to abnormal hormone levels.

It occurs when ovaries become enlarged due to small growths surrounding the eggs.

Dr Diana van der Plaat, a fellow at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, who presented the research, said: “In recent years, there has been an increase in lung disease and deaths from lung disease in women, and we want to understand why.


“This work is part of a big study looking at hormonal factors and lung health in women.

“PCOS is very common so it’s important to find out whether this condition is associated with poor lung health.”

Researchers used a technique called Mendelian randomisation – which takes into account a person’s genetic code along with other available data to identify health risks – to find out whether PCOS may lead to lower lung function.

They used lung function data from 182,619 women from the UK Biobank project – an online database of 500,000 people and their medical conditions available for research – as well as previously published genetic data on PCOS from other scientific research.

A device known as the spirometer – which measures the volume of air inspired and expired by the lungs – was used to test lung function.

The results showed around one in 10 women with PCOS were more likely to have lower lung function, compared to those who do not have the condition.

Dr van der Plaat said: “We found that women with PCOS have a small increased risk of having impaired lung function.

“Poor lung function can cause difficulty in breathing and inadequate exchange of oxygen to the blood or carbon dioxide from the blood.

“This research highlights the fact that PCOS can affect different parts of a woman’s body, not only her reproductive organs.

“We need to do more research to understand why women with PCOS also have poorer lung health.”

The researchers said their work does not explain why PCOS and lung function might be linked but they believe the association may also relate to insulin levels and diabetes.

Commenting on the research, professor Daiana Stolz, from University Hospital Basel in Switzerland and chairwoman of the European Respiratory Society Education Council, who was not involved in the study, said: “PCOS is a common condition, so it’s important to know if it is linked to lung health.

“Doctors need to be aware that women with PCOS may be at a higher risk of having poor lung function, which might require follow-up and treatment.”

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