PCOS and Covid-19 Risk

Do people with PCOS have a higher risk of developing Covid-19? It appears so.  A recent study published in the European Journal of Endocrinology found the rate of COVID-19 in PCOS patients was close to double that in people without it.

Multiple large observational studies have shown that individuals with underlying metabolic risk factors such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 infections. According to the researchers in the study, Women with PCOS have been overlooked for potentially being a high-risk population for COVID-19 complications due to underlying conditions. Women with PCOS are at significantly increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and cardiovascular disease.

Even when further accounting for COVID-19 risk factors including weight, glucose regulation, vitamin D deficiency, hypertension, and heart disease in over 20,000 patients with PCOS, the researchers found PCOS patients still had a 28% higher risk of contracting the virus. (Not taken into account: race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status). Interestingly, the study showed a decreased risk of Covid infection in women 60 years of age and older.

What this study shows is that it’s not just the risk factors associated with PCOS, such as insulin resistance or heart disease that is driving the higher risk of Covid-19 infections in the PCOS population. One theory is that the increased risk could have something to do with how PCOS creates low-grade inflammation in the body.

PCOS is a state of low grade inflammation. Regardless of weight, inflammatory markers like CRP are higher in the PCOS population. It has been hypothesized that inflammation may predispose a person to an increased risk of developing Covid-19. Therefore, people with PCOS potentially are at an increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection because of this underlying pro-inflammatory state.

Emerging research also shows a relationship between low Vitamin D levels and COVID-19.

Should People with PCOS Get a Booster Shot?

I asked a panel of PCOS experts this very question at a recent PCOS symposium. The experts included Dr. Katherine Sherif of Jefferson University, Dr. Anuja Dokras of Penn PCOS Center and Dr.Rachana D. Shah of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Adolescent PCOS Center. All the doctors acknowledged the increased risk for Covid-19 for PCOS people and encouraged people with PCOS to get the booster vaccine.

Currently the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends booster shots for those age 60 and over, anyone age 18 or older who works in long-term care or high risk settings, has underlying medical conditions, or has compromised immune systems.  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/booster-shot.html

Bottom Line: People with PCOS have been shown to be at a much higher risk for Covid-19 infections. Covid vaccines have been found to reduce the risk of serious complications resulting in hospitalization or deaths. A third booster shot is recommended to protect people with PCOS from Covid-19.

References:

Subramanian, A. et al. Increased COVID-19 infections in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a population-based study. European journal of endocrinology, 2021;184(5), 637–645.

CDC website accessed 10/20/21 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/booster-shot.html

pcos dietitian angela grassiAngela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN is the founder of The PCOS Nutrition Center where she provides evidence-based nutrition information and coaching to women with PCOS. Angela is the author of several books on PCOS including PCOS: The Dietitian’s Guide, The PCOS Workbook: Your Guide to Complete Physical and Emotional Health, and The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook Recognized by Today’s Dietitian as one of the Top 10 Incredible Dietitian’s making a difference in 2014, Angela is the past recipient for The Outstanding Nutrition Entrepreneur Award, The Award in Excellence in Practice in Women’s Health and The Award for Excellence in Graduate Research, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Having PCOS herself, Angela has been dedicated to advocacy, education, and research of the syndrome. To learn more about one-on-one nutrition coaching or to schedule a call with Angela, click here

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Comments (4)
  • Annelise

    October 21, 2021 at 2:25 pm

    I was wondering what your views are on the vaccine causing infertility especially with women who have been diagnosed with PCOS? My doctor has exempt me from getting the vaccine because of this and my autoimmune issues.

  • Angela Grassi

    October 22, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the covid vaccine does not cause infertility. If anything, we are seeing problems in infants and mothers infected with covid during pregnancy.

  • Karla

    October 21, 2021 at 7:29 pm

    Thanks for this important information, Angela! I received my booster 6 days ago. It produced quite a few side effects for me, but that wasn’t surprising because I had some rough side effects with my 2nd dose. There were a few new ones this time around. I’m feeling much better now, and very glad I got it.

  • Angela Grassi

    October 22, 2021 at 3:00 pm

    Glad you got your booster too Karla!

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