Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects women’s hormone levels. Women with PCOS may produce higher than normal male hormones, called androgens. They may also have small fluid-filled sacs inside the ovaries that contain immature eggs.
This, coupled with an imbalance of hormones, may cause the ovaries to not release eggs. You may miss your menstrual period or have long or heavy periods.
These PCOS problems may affect your ability to get pregnant and cause other health issues.
PCOS doesn’t just affect your fertility, it can also lead to other serious health issues.
Overweight or Obesity
Women who have PCOS often have a hard time losing weight. If you weigh too much, your risk of heart attack, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer rises. Excess weight contributes to many chronic health conditions.
Insulin helps your body change food into energy and balances your blood sugar. Your body may not be able to use insulin correctly, referred to as insulin resistance. This could raise your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is common in women who have PCOS. In fact, more than 50% of women who have PCOS develop type 2 diabetes by the time they’re 40, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
Women with PCOS are more prone to developing high blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. This can raise your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
You may be more likely to develop cancer of the lining of the uterus (womb) due to insulin resistance, diabetes, or obesity.
People who have sleep apnea stop breathing for short periods of time while asleep. These pauses keep your brain from getting the oxygen it needs. Sleep apnea makes you feel tired during the day and increases your heart disease, heart attack, and stroke risk.
Depression and Anxiety
You may feel sad, anxious, or worried if you have PCOS.
PCOS makes it harder to get pregnant. Women with PCOS are also more likely to develop gestational diabetes (diabetes while you are pregnant) and/or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. PCOS also increases the risk of miscarriage and premature birth.
PCOS Care at UVA
Find a provider in central Virginia who specializes in treating PCOS.
Other PCOS Symptoms
The excess male hormones also cause other symptoms. These may not be serious, but they can affect the way you feel about how you look.
- Hair loss or unwanted hair: You may lose hair on your head but grow it on your face, upper lip, neck, back, or legs
- Pimples or severe acne
- Dark skin or skin tags
If you suspect you have PCOS, see a doctor. Knowing you have this chronic health condition can help you better manage your symptoms. It also makes it easier for you to address potential complications if you plan to get pregnant. And it can help your doctor monitor any risk factors that can lead to serious health problems down the road, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
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