In part one, we analyzed an overview of PCOS, and this week we will dive into the potential causes and symptoms of PCOS.
What Causes PCOS?
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. Many doctors believe that elevated levels of androgen prevent the ovaries from producing hormones and making eggs normally.
Risk factors like genes, insulin resistance, and inflammation have all been linked to excess androgen production.
Studies have shown that PCOS is a hereditary condition.
It’s likely that multiple genes, not just one, contribute to the condition.
Another pattern researchers have noticed is that up to 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, which regulates glucose levels of the blood, to help the body convert sugar from foods into energy.
When cells are unable to use insulin properly, the body’s requirement for insulin increases. The pancreas makes more insulin to compensate. The excessive insulin prompts the ovaries to create more androgens.
Obesity is a major cause of insulin resistance. Both obesity and insulin resistance can increase a patient’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Patients with PCOS often have elevated levels of inflammation and being overweight can also contribute to this. Researchers have linked excessive inflammation to higher androgen levels.
It’s unknown what exactly causes PCOS. Researchers believe risk factors such as genes, insulin resistance, and inflammation might have something to do with causing PCOS.
Common Symptoms of PCOS
Some patients begin noticing symptoms as soon as their first menstrual cycle. Other patients only realize they have PCOS after they’ve experienced unexplained weight gain or they’ve had difficulty conceiving.
The most prevalent PCOS symptoms are:
● Irregular menstrual cycles: The absence of ovulation prevents the endometrium (uterine lining) from shedding each month. Some patients with PCOS get less than eight periods per year.
● Heavy bleeding: Since the endometrium accumulates for a longer period of time, so the menstrual cycles patients do get can be heavier than average.
● Acne: Elevated levels of androgen can increase the oiliness of the skin and cause breakouts.
● Weight gain: Up to 80% of women with PCOS are overweight or obese.
● Alopecia: Hair on the scalp gets thinner and falls out, causing permanent baldness.
● Discolored Skin Patches: Dark patches of skin can form in creases like on the neck, in the groin area, and under the breasts.
● Headaches: Hormonal changes can trigger headaches in some patients.
PCOS can disrupt the menstrual cycle, leading to other symptoms such as; acne, hair growth, weight gain, and dark skin patches.
Come back next week for part three where we will be discussing the impact & diagnosis of PCOS.