Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a serious endocrine disorder characterized by ovulatory dysfunction and hyperandrogenism that is thought to have a higher prevalence in women with epilepsy and perhaps bipolar disorder. Various theories have been offered to explain this higher prevalence of PCOS and other reproductive disorders in these patient populations, including the effects of the disease itself and of antiepileptic drugs, especially valproate, which may directly cause PCOS or indirectly lead to the disorder by causing weight gain that triggers insulin resistance, increased testosterone levels, and other reproductive abnormalities. A prospective, longitudinal study with larger cohorts in newly diagnosed women with epilepsy or bipolar disorder is needed to definitively characterize the relationship between antiepileptic drugs and PCOS. Until data from such a study are available, physicians need to be aware that there is a possibility of developing symptoms of PCOS in women of reproductive age who are treated with antiepileptic drugs. Despite this concern, the choice of antiepileptic drug for women with epilepsy or bipolar disorder should be based on the most effective agent for controlling neurologic symptoms.
Department of Psychiatry, Stanford School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA
Received April 30, 2003; accepted after revision February 26, 2003.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Natalie Rasgon, MD, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Stanford University School of Medicine, 401 Quarry Rd, Room 2360, Palo Alto, CA 94305-5723. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.