With the pandemic continuing to cause devastation around the world, a recent study has identified a specific group of women who are potentially at more risk from COVID-19.
Specifically, the research from the University of Birmingham found that women with polycystic ovary syndrome are 51 per cent more at risk of contracting the disease than women without the condition.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition affecting around one in 10 women in their reproductive years. It's a hormonal disorder causing enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges, and common symptoms include weight gain, hair loss, irregular periods, dry skin, and acne.
Women with PCOS already have an increased risk of cardio-metabolic disease, such as type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and high blood pressure, all of which have been identified as risk factors for COVID-19.
Researchers carried out a population-based closed cohort study in the UK during the first wave of the pandemic between January and July 2020, to determine whether those metabolic risks translated to an increased risk of COVID-19.
And what they found might shock you.
Results, published in the European Journal of Endocrinology, revealed a 51 per cent increase in risk of contracting COVID-19 in women with PCOS, compared to those of the same age and background of those without PCOS.
And even after adjusting results to account for any of those individual cardio-metabolic risk factors mentioned above (type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and high blood pressure), the PCOS cohort of subjects still had 26 per cent increased susceptibility to COVID-19 infection.
Given the results, researchers have stressed the findings need to be taken into account when "designing public health policy and advice".
“Our research has highlighted that women with PCOS are an often overlooked and potentially high risk population for contracting COVID-19," joint senior author Professor Wiebke Arlt, Director of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research, said.
“However, our study does not provide information on the risk of a severe course of the COVID-19 infection or on the risk of COVID-19 related long-term complications of COVID-19 and further research is required.”
The results of the study, which were first released in March, have been circulating on social media this week, with many women sharing their shock and the results, and at their anger at not being aware of the study in the first place.
"I have PCOS and had no idea this was a thing," one person wrote on TikTok.
"Wow, this is actually scary since I suffer from PCOS and I didn't even know this information because nothing is said about it," another person stressed.
"I'm sorry what? This is the first time I've seen this," was another shocked response.