PARIS, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Researchers in Greece found increased levels of a recently discovered hormone are more likely to indicate polycystic ovary syndrome, which they say could help prevent misdiagnosis of the condition in teenagers.
Increased levels of the hormone irisin were linked to higher levels of testosterone in teenage girls with PCOS, suggesting diagnostic improvements and better targets for treatment are possible, according to a recent study presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for Pediatric Endocrinology.
PCOS is a relatively common endocrine disorder occurring in 12 percent of women causing enlarged ovaries swollen with small collections of fluid.
While the exact cause of PCOS is not known, it can cause infrequent or absent menstruation in teen girls, which is how it is often discovered. Some of the effects of PCOS, however, also mimic normal changes during puberty, which is why researchers at Aghia Sophia Children's Hospital in Greece say the new study is important.
Doctors are often cautious about treating the condition in teens, though better methods of diagnosis could prevent exposing then to unnecessary treatment.
"If high irisin levels in teenagers with PCOS is established, this could lead to the development of treatments for PCOS," Dr. Flora Bacopoulou, a researcher at Aghia Sofia and the University of Athens, said in a press release. "Lifestyle changes and different exercise-related signals that regulate the secretion of irisin could provide a potential option for the management of PCOS. The potential of irisin as a meaningful drug target in PCOS is very promising."
For the study, published online in advance of ESPE's annual meeting, researchers recruited 23 PCOS patients and 17 age- and BMI-matched controls, comparing ovarian volume and levels of hormones and proteins connected to ovarian function.
When compared to those without the condition, the researchers found teens with PCOS had higher levels of testosterone and irisin.
The existence of irisin, sometimes referred to as the "exercise hormone," was recently confirmed. The hormone is released from muscles and helps regulate energy metabolism.
While the cause of PCOS is unknown, and there is no cure for it, researchers say irisin may prove to be an effective target for treatment. It may at least help to confirm diagnosis and allow patients better manage the condition.
"Teenagers who get an early diagnosis of PCOS can sooner start to deal with the physical and psychological symptoms caused by this lifelong condition," Bacopoulou said. "Whether it's through counselling or medication, girls can manage their symptoms and decrease the risk of further complications such as fertility problems, hirsutism [excessive hair growth] and type-2 diabetes."