While not fully understood, the main causes of PCOS include certain hormonal disturbances, genetic tendencies, and poor lifestyle habits.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that affects about 1 in 10 women of their reproductive (childbearing) age.
What exactly causes PCOS is not well understood; however, certain hormonal disturbances, genetic tendencies, and poor lifestyle habits, coupled with a chronic inflammatory state, seem to play a crucial role in causing the condition.
The main causes of PCOS are described below:
- Excess of male hormones:
- Blood levels of male hormones (such as testosterone), also called androgens, are normally very low in women. However, excess androgens are present in the blood of women with PCOS.
- Increased androgen levels can cause imbalances in other hormones such as follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, estrogen, and progesterone. This results in problems with maturation and release of the egg or ovum (ovulation), resulting in menstrual disturbances and fertility issues.
- Lack of ovulation results in the formation of tiny fluid-filled sacs or cysts that produce androgens. High androgen levels lead to problems such as excess body hair, male-pattern hair loss, and acne.
- Disturbed insulin action:
- PCOS is associated with insulin resistance. It is a condition in which the tissues in the body do not respond adequately (become resistant) to the hormone insulin.
- Disturbed insulin activity due to insulin resistance may lead to high blood glucose levels and eventually diabetes mellitus.
- To combat the resistance, the body produces more insulin that, in return, stimulates more production of androgens. Excess of androgens further impairs ovulation, leading to fertility, and menstrual problems.
- Chronic inflammation:
- Blood levels of various inflammatory markers (substances that are associated with inflammation) are increased in PCOS. There is a sustained state of chronic low-grade inflammation that can lead to many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and endometrial cancer.
- Studies report that genes may play a role in causing PCOS. The condition tends to run in families, making women with mothers or sisters with PCOS or type II diabetes more likely to have PCOS.
- Unhealthy lifestyle:
- Research suggests that a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits can increase the likelihood of PCOS.
- Although PCOS is not exclusively seen in women who are overweight or obese, higher body weight can cause insulin resistance and other hormonal disturbances that are associated with PCOS.
- Research shows that an unhealthy lifestyle along with excess body weight may increase the risk of PCOS, particularly in genetically predisposed individuals.
How can PCOS be prevented?
There is no definitive way to prevent polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). You may, however, limit your symptoms and reduce the risk of PCOS-associated complications by having a healthy lifestyle.
Regular physical activity, weight management, adequate sleep, and a nutritious diet (rich in complex carbs, fiber, and low in sugar) may help prevent the worsening of PCOS.
Can PCOS go away?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) cannot be cured. However, proper lifestyle changes and medications can help limit this disease. PCOS symptoms may be relieved after menopause due to hormonal changes. This, however, does not always occur, and women may have this condition even after menopause.
- Studies report that weight management plays an important role in managing PCOS.
- A healthy diet and an active lifestyle can help lower the risk of complications associated with PCOS.
- Even 5 to 10 percent weight reduction can show visible improvement in symptoms such as menstrual disturbances and acne.
- Moreover, a healthy lifestyle may help reduce psychological symptoms of PCOS such as anxiety and depression.
Apart from lifestyle changes, your doctor may prescribe medications to correct hormonal disturbances. They may give medications to treat complications such as diabetes and infertility.
Additionally, they may suggest cosmetic treatments to treat acne scars or excess body hair.
Medically Reviewed on 1/20/2022