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The prevalence of polycystic ovaries in the hepatic glycogen storage diseases: its association with hyperinsulinism

P J Lee, A Patel, P C Hindmarsh, A P Mowat, J V Leonard
Clinical Endocrinology 1995, 42 (6): 601-6

OBJECTIVE: There has been much debate concerning the relative contribution of insulin resistance to the development of polycystic ovaries (PCO). We therefore aimed to assess ovarian morphology and insulin/androgen status in females with the hepatic glycogen storage diseases types Ia (GSD-Ia) and III (GSD-III), disorders associated with abnormalities of insulin secretion.

DESIGN: A cross-sectional study of ovarian ultrasonography, oral glucose tolerance tests (oGTTs) and single measurements of gonadotrophins and androgens were performed.

PATIENTS: Twenty-seven patients were evaluated: 13 with GSD-Ia, median age 11.2 years (range, 3.3-26.7) and 14 with GSD-III, aged 13.2 years (4.2-31.3). None had clinical signs of hyperandrogenism and only two of the 13 adults (15%) had menstrual irregularities. They were compared to 9 normal adult female controls, aged 21-28 years.

MEASUREMENTS: Ovarian morphology and volume were measured. Blood glucose and plasma insulin concentrations were measured at the beginning and end of a 2-hour oGTT. Single measures of LH, FSH, testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate, androstenedione, IGF-I and SHBG were made on samples taken at the beginning of the oGTT.

RESULTS: In both GSD-Ia and III, all those older than 4.8 years of age had a polycystic ovarian appearance. Pre-pubertal GSD-Ia patients had lower basal and 2-hour blood glucose and plasma insulin concentrations than pre-pubertal GSD-III patients. In adults with GSD-Ia and GSD-III, although basal and 2-hour blood glucose concentrations did not differ, both basal and 2-hour plasma insulin concentrations were significantly higher than controls. Serum gonadotrophins, androgens, IGF-I and SHBG were mostly normal.

CONCLUSIONS: A polycystic ovarian appearance is a common finding in patients with glycogen storage disease even before puberty. In GSD-III and adults with GSD-Ia, this ovarian appearance was associated with hyperinsulinism, suggesting an aetiological link, but this was not the case in pre-pubertal children with GDS-Ia. Inborn errors of carbohydrate metabolism may act as useful models for examining control mechanisms of ovarian physiology and development.

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