PCOS and Insulin Resistance
If you are suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), you may be experiencing difficulties with your fertility. Many women with PCOS have difficulties maintaining ovulation because of imbalanced hormone levels in their bloodstream. This can make pregnancy extremely difficult to achieve. However, recent research on PCOS has discovered a new cause for the disorder in some women. It appears that insulin resistance may actually be triggering PCOS in a large percentage of sufferers. It is hoped that by treating this insulin resistance, fertility can be restored in some PCOS patients.
What is PCOS?
PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a disorder of the menstrual cycle. Affecting between 6% and 10% of the population, PCOS causes ovarian follicles to rupture improperly. As a result, eggs are not released during ovulation, but instead build up within the ovaries, forming cysts. These cysts continue to grow, covering the entire ovary and affecting the production of reproductive hormones in the body.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance occurs when your body is unable to use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps us to regulate our glucose levels. Insulin helps to transfer glucose from our blood stream to our tissues and cells. It is necessary that your body has the right amount of insulin in order to maintain appopriate glucose levels.
Some people can become insulin resistant. This can trigger your body to develop extremely high levels of insulin, leading to a condition called hyperinsulinemia. This can be very dangerous as it can lead to further health complications. Insulin resistance is very common in the United States, affecting 1 in 3 American men and women.
Who Gets Insulin Resistance?
Anyone can become insulin resistant, however, there are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing the condition. These risk factors include:
- being overweight
- being over 40
- having heart disease or high blood pressure
- having a family history of Type II diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure
What are the Symptoms of Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance typically causes no symptoms in sufferers. If severe, you may begin to notice some of the following symptoms:
- weight gain, especially around the mid-section
- high blood pressure
- carbohydrate and sugar cravings
- dark patches on the skin, particularly on the back of the neck, knees, ankles, elbows, and knuckles
PCOS and Insulin Resistance
Research performed over the past 20 years has suggested a link between PCOS and insulin resistance. It appears that a large number of women with PCOS have insulin resistance problems. In fact, studies show that up to 30% of women with PCOS actually have insulin resistance. Because of this research, it has now been theorized that perhaps this condition is the root cause of PCOS.
But how does insulin resistance trigger PCOS? Well, when your body becomes resistant to insulin your pancreas tries to compensate by producing more insulin. Eventually, your body will produce too much insulin and this can trigger the production of excess androgens. Androgens, like testosterone, are male hormones, which can interfere with ovulation, reproduction, and cause a number of PCOS symptoms.
Complications of Insulin Resistance
If you are suffering from PCOS it is a good idea to ask your health care provider to test you for insulin resistance. If left untreated, insulin resistance can lead to Type II diabetes, which can cause nerve damage, vision loss, kidney damage, and heart disease.
Treating PCOS and Insulin Resistance
It may be possible to treat your PCOS simply by treating your insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is commonly treated through medication. Metformin is a medication that helps to control glucose production in the liver, reducing your need for insulin. This should help to control androgen production and restore fertility.