The Link Between Obesity and PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome, also called PCOS and polycystic ovarian syndrome, is one of the most common hormonal disorders, from 5 to 10 percent of women of reproductive age. PCOS can lead to irregular periods and fertility issues. Additionally, many women with PCOS are overweight or obese, and obesity exacerbates PCOS symptoms. 

However, it’s not clear if PCOS increases your risk for obesity, or if obesity increases your risk for PCOS. Either way, people with PCOS who are obese have difficulty losing weight, which is important to reduce the risks of several health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic disease. These are all associated with excess weight. 

The medical professionals at Women’s Health Care Center, PLLC, in Helena, Montana, can help you understand and treat PCOS. 

What is PCOS?

The medical community does not know what exactly causes PCOS, but doctors do know there is a connection between excess production of the male hormone androgen and PCOS. There are, however, signs and symptoms that can help you diagnose this common disorder. If you experience at least two of these three symptoms, you may have PCOS:

Irregular or heavy periods

These are periods that are infrequent or prolonged. Many women with PCOS also experience heavy menstrual cycles. 

Excess androgen

When women have a high amount of this male hormone, they may develop facial hair or excessive body hair, male pattern baldness, or acne.

Polycystic ovaries

Although the condition is called polycystic ovary syndrome, not everyone who has it has cysts on their ovaries. Many women with PCOS have enlarged ovaries and follicles that surround the eggs. 

Symptoms vary, and obesity can make these symptoms more severe. With irregular periods and ovarian cysts, getting pregnant can be challenging. Fortunately, many treatments can help women with PCOS get pregnant.

How does obesity affect PCOS?

One factor that contributes to excess androgen production is insulin resistance. When your body produces too much insulin, it can lead to insulin resistance, which decreases your body’s ability to use insulin properly. When the body cannot use insulin properly, it increases glucose production, which may increase androgen production by the ovaries. Insulin resistance can also lead to weight gain and difficulty losing weight.

Weight gain increases the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and heart disease. The heavier you are, the greater your health risks. Losing weight, even just 5 percent of your body weight, can help reduce the symptoms and risks of PCOS. Your risk of developing PCOS increases if you are obese, and your risk of becoming overweight increases if you have PCOS.

PCOS treatment options

Fortunately, at Women’s Health Care Center, our medical providers have expertise in diagnosing and effectively treating PCOS symptoms. Treatment options include:

If you think you have PCOS, make an appointment with Women’s Health Care Center, PLLC, to learn about your best treatment options. 

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