12 Things Every Woman Needs to Know About PCOS

It is a risk factor for diabetes

Along with heart disease, another part of metabolic syndrome is a risk of diabetes, so it’s not a surprise that polycystic ovary syndrome is linked with that condition as well. According to research, more than half of women with the condition will have diabetes or pre-diabetes (glucose intolerance) before 40 years old. “One of the common symptoms is insulin resistance, which contributes to pre-diabetes,” Dr. Gray says. “Does this mean early diagnosis is important? Yes, women with polycystic ovary syndrome should see a doctor annually. They get screened for diabetes more often than most people.” This is especially true for women who are overweight—but some studies have shown that even women with of normal weight may be at increased risk of glucose intolerance. Read more things you never knew about diabetes.

Many women also have sleep apnea

Another condition shown in studies to have an indirect association with polycystic ovary syndrome is sleep apnea, which is a problem breathing at night. Again, this has to do with a high BMI. “The excess weight can be the cause of sleep apnea,” Dr. Gray says. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people who are overweight are more likely to have compromised respiratory function. Plus, if you’re not sleeping well you get tired during the day, which sets up a vicious cycle of not exercising, then gaining more weight, then sleeping even worse. One treatment women can use for sleep apnea is a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which uses a mask to help you breathe better. Find out about other remedies for sleep apnea without CPAP

Women with PCOS are at risk for anxiety and depression

Research has shown that over 60 percent of women with polycystic ovary syndrome have mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder. Although doctors don’t know exactly why, “there are hormonal irregularities with polycystic ovary syndrome, so that may be a contributing factor,” Dr. Gray says. One study in rodents found that exposure to extra testosterone, as occurs with polycystic ovary syndrome, led to more anxious behavior. Here are nine signs you could have an anxiety disorder.

There’s a link between PCOS and cancer

Perhaps scariest of all, women with polycystic ovary syndrome have an increased risk of endometrial cancer. “Because women with polycystic ovary syndrome do not have regular menstrual cycles, this puts them at a slightly increased risk for hyperplasia [abnormal cells] or cancer,” Dr. Gray says. “Additionally, excess weight commonly associated with polycystic ovary syndrome is also a risk factor.” According to ACOG, women with the syndrome tend to develop endometrial hyperplasia due to the lining of the uterus becoming too thick. This happens because of the lack of ovulation—ovulation normally triggers the production of progesterone, but if ovulation doesn’t occur, the lining may continue to grow in response to estrogen. The cells get crowded together and can become abnormal. According to the National Institutes of Health, women with polycystic ovary syndrome have three times the risk of endometrial cancer and women without it. Here are myths about ovarian cancer you can ignore.

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