PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is a hormonal imbalance that affects 6 to 12 percent of women of reproductive age in the United States. It causes symptoms such as fertility problems, excess hair growth, irregular periods, and insulin resistance. Though the cause of PCOS is not known, possible factors could be excess androgren (or male hormone), genetics, and low-grade inflammation.
Symptoms of PCOS
The symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular periods or no periods
- Heavy or painful periods
- Excessive hair growth
- Weight gain or obesity
- Fertility problems
- Waist larger than 35 inches
- Dark patches of skin in folds
Other complications can include miscarriage, liver inflammation, metabolic syndrome, sleep apnea, and depression.
Pregnancy and PCOS
It is possible to become pregnant with PCOS through hormonal or fertility treatments. After pregnancy, many women with PCOS find that their periods become regular and they can get pregnant again without fertility treatments.
If you do get pregnant with PCOS, be sure to get screened for gestational diabetes.
A doctor can diagnose PCOS by doing an ultrasound on the ovaries. If the ovaries appear to have many follicles on them, then the woman has PCOS. Many tiny follicles clump together on the ovaries to form “cysts”. Eggs mature within the follicles, but the follicles don’t release them into the uterus for fertilization as they normally would.
You doctor may also run blood tests to check your hormone levels, as PCOS causes high levels of testosterone.
PCOS and Diabetes
What’s the connection between PCOS and diabetes?
It has long been thought that there is a connection between diabetes and PCOS. Polycystic ovary syndrome is a big risk factor for developing diabetes. Women with PCOS are also at greater risk for heart problems later in life.
The insulin resistance that happens in PCOS can lead to a disruption of the endocrine system, leading to type 2 diabetes. Women with PCOS are four times more likely to develop type 2, and also tend to develop diabetes earlier that those without it.
If you have PCOS, you should watch your diet and develop an exercise routine. Also, it’s important to get screened for diabetes often.
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome are at risk for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Talk to your doctor about what treatments will work best for you.