The PCOS and Diabetes Connection

PCOS

Many are unaware of what PCOS is, let alone that it can increase risk for diabetes. PCOS, however, shares a key factor with type 2 diabetes, namely the development of insulin resistance.

So what is PCOS? PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome is an endocrine disorder affecting as many as 10% of women worldwide, with many women unaware that they are living with it. Studies have indicated that between 50% and 70% of American women with polycystic ovary syndrome have abnormally elevated levels of insulin, which may be a sign of insulin resistance. This means the body has become somewhat resistant to responding to insulin. Partially as a result, women with the syndrome have an overproduction of androgens (male hormones) which in turn affect several body systems and can result in symptoms not limited to: acne, weight gain and obesity, excess facial and body hair, thinning and balding hairline, irregular and/or absent menses and infertility.

Diabetes is always a consideration and risk for any woman diagnosed with PCOS. While some women with PCOS will also have diabetes, many others will have blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be termed diabetes. Approximately 30 to 40% of women with PCOS have pre-diabetes, and 12.6% have type 2 diabetes, according to “Defining pre-diabetes in polycystic ovarian syndrome,” Mark P. Trolice, M.D., June 2011 Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Without the proper education and awareness for these connected disorders, the diabetes epidemic will continue to rise. PCOS, diabetes and their connection is still being debated and researched. They are both lifelong conditions requiring the proper diagnosis, treatment and management to avoid taking years off a person’s life.