PCOS is a risk factor for diabetes. If a patient has PCOS, she is seven times more likely to get diabetes. In fact over half of all women with PCOS have insulin resistance. Some studies suggest that women with PCOS who have irregular or no cycles may have double the risk of diabetes.
Women with PCOS have an increased risk of heart disease compared to women without PCOS. They frequently have elevated LDL-cholesterol and homocysteine levels, two cardiac risk factors. Women with PCOS usually have decreased total antioxidant status and increased oxidative stress leading to heart disease. Furthermore, women with PCOS have 4 times the rate of hypertension than women who do not have PCOS. This hypertension also correlates with high insulin levels and insulin resistance.
In women with PCOS the ovarian follicles start to mature but fail to ripen or be released. They stay in the ovaries and continue to produce estrogen but no progesterone. This may block ovulation and lead to infertility. Higher than normal levels of testosterone are also found in patients with PCOS. This can inhibit ovulation.
Women who have had a history of PCOS and irregular periods have a five fold increase in uterine cancer and may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer. They may also be at risk for breast cancer since they tend to be overweight and have hormonal changes that can lead to unopposed estrogen in the body.
Finally, studies show that women with PCOS store fat better and burn calories at a slower rate than patients without PCOS.
The treatment of PCOS consists of medications, fiber, low glycemic index nutrition, stress reduction, omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, herbal remedies and drinking plenty of water. Medications include testosterone metabolism blockers such as propecia, anti androgen meds such as spironolactone and cimetidine, medications to lower blood sugar such as metformin, menstrual regulators such as birth control pills and progesterone. Fiber lowers blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. Low glycemic nutrition lowers insulin resistance and combats diabetes.
Stress can exacerbate the symptoms of PCOS by limiting progesterone projection (see previous posts on female hormones). Women with PCOS must reduce stress. Nutritional treatment of insulin resistance includes Taurine, CoQ-10, Magnesium, Chromium, lentils, chickpeas and broccoli. Herbal remedies include fenugreek, cinnamon, black cohosh and chasteberries. Women with PCOS should AVOID TAKING NIACIN, which can worsen insulin sensitivity.