It’s a good question. But the answer is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no.
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a common condition—1 in 10 women of reproductive age are diagnosed with the condition, after all—but it does still come with its own set of challenges. And those can run the gamut of unwanted and annoying symptoms to serious and troubling health conditions. Not to mention, everyone is different, effectively causing each experience with PCOS to be a unique one.
Here, we take a look at the concerns, both serious and less so, that can accompany PCOS.
Serious Health Conditions PCOS Can Lead To Include …
Type 2 diabetes
“More than half of women with PCOS develop type 2 diabetes by age 40.” That is a quote from the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC). Because women with PCOS are often insulin resistant — meaning the body doesn’t respond normally to insulin, leading to a buildup of glucose in the blood (a.k.a. high blood sugar) — they are at an increased risk for developing diabetes.
High blood pressure
Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is another condition those with PCOS need not take lightly. Researchers from the Dallas Heart Study found that “when women with PCOS were compared to women without the condition, those with PCOS showed a higher prevalence of high blood pressure, regardless of race or ethnicity.”
Uterine cancer, in the form of endometrial cancer, might be diagnosed in those with PCOS. The reason comes from the estrogen effect. Now, this can get confusing, as PCOS is defined by an increase in androgen, or male hormones, but stick with us as we explain why estrogen, or the female hormone, plays a role too.
Produced by the ovaries, estrogen levels rise during every ovulation cycle, falling with the egg release from the ovary. Because women with PCOS often don’t ovulate, or menstruate, normally, their ovaries can suffer from too much estrogen and too little progesterone. Progesterone, another hormone, is tasked with “shedding” the uterine lining. Without this action, the lining becomes thick, its cells altered, and thus can lead to endometrial cancer.
We all know that ovulation is the only way to get pregnant: sperm + egg = baby. So when there is a hormonal imbalance blocking ovulation and its egg release from running its course, having a baby can seem near impossible. But that does not mean women with PCOS can’t get pregnant. Your doctor can offer ways to help you ovulate, and there are medical treatments, including in vitro fertilization, that can come to the rescue.
Mental Health Effects PCOS Can Lead To Include …
According to a 2008 study, researchers found that “suicide attempts were seven times more common in the PCOS group than in the controls.” Understandably, depression in those with PCOS can be attributed to many things: hormone imbalances, the fear of serious health conditions, struggles with infertility, weight gain, low sexual and relationship health, just to name a few.
As depression is not a one-diagnosis-fits-all situation, there are several different types of depression one can have, ranging from major depressive order, to bipolar depression, to seasonal affective disorder. Meeting with your physician to pinpoint exactly which kind of depression you may have is the first step to getting relief.
“Will I be able to have kids?” “Why have I gone three months without a period?” “Where is this weight coming from, and why is my face constantly broken out?” Anxiety is a big-time player in the world of PCOS. And it’s easy to understand why. The emotional and physical stressors brought on by the condition are a lot to deal with. As is knowing that your diagnosis comes with a lifetime of management and not really any cure. But, again, there is relief. Share your anxieties with your doctor, so the two of you can etch out a game plan.
Restless or disturbed sleep, or insomnia altogether, are just some of the sleep challenges that can go along with PCOS. And because getting a good night’s rest is vital to managing PCOS symptoms—and your overall health—it’s important to recognize these disturbances, tackle them, and treat them. The culprit here, researchers believe, is insulin resistance.
Less Serious but Unwanted Challenges PCOS Can Lead To Include …
Hair Growth and Loss
Due to excess androgen levels, patches of thicker and longer hair can form on parts of the body including the chin, chest, and back. This is known by the fancy word hirsutism. Removing the hair, though a nuisance, is pretty standard. And there are many procedures that range from simple (shaving) to more complex (electrolysis).
On the flip side, women with PCOS can also experience hair loss, also known as female pattern baldness. Again, this is due to the increased male hormones.
One symptom feeds the next with PCOS. Hormone imbalances lead one to become insulin resistant, which can then lead one to weight gain, which can then lead one to diabetes and other more serious conditions. Of course, we are not undermining the struggle, but the weight gain part can be managed. Check out some of our expert-designed meal plans and dietary guides for a plan of attack. Or even meet with a registered dietician who specializes in the PCOS condition to get a custom plan made for only you.
When PCOS is present, epidermal conditions such as acne can arise, with the lesions getting worse around the time of menstruation. Luckily, birth control and topical creams can actually be really effective in helping to clear up the acne.
Dark, velvety patches, unusually located in creased areas like the back of the neck and armpits, are another symptom of PCOS. Also associated with insulin resistance, these patches can be managed by taking care of the insulin issue with diet, exercise, supplements.
Skin tags, another skin issue that can arise with PCOS, are a less common symptom of the condition, but they can form. Typically taking up residence on the back of the neck, under the breasts, or around the groin area, these small flaps of skin can be nixed with just one visit to the dermatologist.
You Are Not Alone. We Are Here to Help You on Your PCOS Journey.
We here at Allara can be a partner on your journey. Though PCOS is a relatively ghost condition to anyone who doesn’t have it, PCOS health is of the utmost importance to us. Through highly researched and expertly curated content, we aim to answer any and all of your questions.
Beyond our digital content, our care teams strive to treat you as a person and not as a patient. This manifests in thoughtful check-ins to monitor your progress and tuning in to your physical and mental well-being to assess your overall health. We also have numerous health guides created by a registered dietician, accessible with just the click of your mouse.
Allara Health provides personalized treatment for hormonal, metabolic & gynecological conditions that utilizes a holistic plan that merges nutrition, lifestyle, medication and supplementation, and ongoing, expert support to heal your body.