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Did you know that about 12% of women in the United States have problems with fertility? One of the main reasons for this is a condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). This condition affects an estimated 5 million women in the United States, and approximately 70% of women with this disease have not been diagnosed.

PCOS is characterized by having abnormally high amounts of male hormones in the body, irregular menstrual periods, and cysts in the ovaries. Here we’ll explore the causes, symptoms, and complications of the disease, as well as how it’s linked to type 2 diabetes. 

What Causes PCOS?

Although scientists don’t know the exact causes of PCOS, they do know that high levels of male hormones prevent the ovaries from functioning properly. Some causes behind high levels of male hormone production included genes, inflammation, and insulin resistance.

In fact, studies show that PCOS runs in families and is more prevalent in those with chronic low-grade inflammation. Additionally, research reveals that around 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance, which is also a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Both inflammation and insulin resistance are often a result of being overweight or obese; 80 percent of women with PCOS are obese.

The Symptoms of PCOS

PCOS can occur at any point in a woman’s life. Some of the major symptoms of this condition include

  • Irregular periods
  • Heavy bleeding during periods
  • Hair growth on the face, back, stomach, and chest
  • Acne
  • Hair loss or thinning on the scalp
  • Unintentional weight gain
  • Dark patches of skin in body creases such as the groin, neck, or under the breasts
  • Headaches.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and have a family history of PCOS, reach out to your primary care physician as soon as possible. Otherwise, you might experience harmful complications.

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Complications Associated with PCOS

Unfortunately, if left untreated, PCOS can have many unpleasant complications. Some of these include

  • Infertility, miscarriage, and premature birth
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Depression, anxiety, and eating disorders
  • Sleep apnea
  • Cancer of the uterine lining.

PCOS and Diabetes

Research has found that women with PCOS have a high risk of earlier diagnosis of diabetes. In fact, those with PCOS are four to eight times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and are typically diagnosed four years earlier than women without this condition; approximately 27% of premenopausal women with type 2 diabetes also have PCOS.

In addition to this, pregnant women with PCOS have a significantly higher risk of developing gestational diabetes than women without PCOS, and many studies reveal that women with type 1 diabetes are more likely to develop PCOS. 

So, if you have PCOS, it’s best to start screening for type 2 or gestational diabetes earlier than other women and to do so more frequently. 

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Treating PCOS

PCOS treatment mainly focuses on managing your individual concerns such as infertility, excess hair growth, acne, or obesity. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes for weight loss; losing just five percent of your body weight may improve your condition. Losing weight can also increase the effectiveness of any medications your doctor prescribes, and help with infertility.

Exercising regularly can have great benefits for those with PCOS. Furthermore, eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential. Some foods to enjoy regularly include

  • Colorful fruits and vegetables
  • Sources of lean protein such as chicken breast, turkey, fish, low-fat dairy, and legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy fats from sources such as olive oil, nuts, and seeds.

While those are some foods you should eat, there are also many foods you should avoid as well if you struggle with PCOS. Some of these include

  • Processed meats
  • Trans fats
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • White sugar
  • Fast foods
  • Processed foods

Although these can be great avenues to start on a path towards a holistically healthier life, always talk to your doctor before exploring alternative treatment options. 

We wish you all the best on your healing journey!

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