What causes PCOS?

What causes PCOS?

It is still to be determined what the exact cause of PCOS really is. One thing that all medical professionals can agree on in all instances of PCOS, is that a hormonal imbalance is the main influence in the body that causes the disorder.

A woman with PCOS typically has an overproduction of the male sex hormones, androgens in her body. While women’s bodies normally produce these hormones, women with PCOS have an excess amount of it in the body. As a result, the overproduced hormone affects the natural development and release of eggs during ovulation.

Another contributing factor is an excess production of insulin in the body. Insulin is another hormone, naturally produced in the pancreas that helps convert sugar (glucose) and starch to energy, while also regulating cell functionality and growth.

When there is insufficient insulin in the body, or the body cannot utilise it effectively (i.e. the body becomes insulin resistant), blood sugar levels increase and this can lead to a host of complications and the development of conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Elevated insulin levels, in turn lead to higher levels of androgen hormones like testosterone in women which are responsible for the irregular periods, increased hair growth and acne associated with PCOS.

Other common factors include:

  • Genetics: It has been noted that many women with the condition have a mother or sister with similar imbalances too. Extensive research is being conducted to find a possible link between certain genes in families, especially in mothers and sisters of women with PCOS. There does appear to be a higher probability of the condition developing if close female family members have the disorder.
  • Low-grade inflammation: The body produces white blood cells as a natural means to fight off infection or fever. Typically, women with PCOS experience low-grade inflammation (a neuroendocrine or immune system response to adverse or damaging stimuli) in the body which leads to the overproduction of androgen hormones, and in turn stimulates polycystic ovaries.

Illustration showing a follicular cyst on an ovary

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