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Can PCOS in young women cause Type 2 diabetes by 40?

Women with PCOS frequently develop insulin resistance, which increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes even if their bodies can produce insulin. They are also more prone to gestational diabetes, says Dr Harsh Parekh, Consultant Endocrinologist and Diabetologist at Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai

Women with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) are often insulin-resistant; their bodies can make insulin but can’t use it effectively, increasing their risk for Type 2 diabetes. As per the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they can develop serious health problems, especially if they are overweight, with more than half of them likely to develop Type 2 diabetes by age 40. They also have higher levels of androgens (male hormones that females also have), which can stop eggs from being released (ovulation) and cause irregular periods, acne, thinning scalp hair and excess hair growth on the face and body. Dr Harsh Parekh, Consultant Endocrinologist and Diabetologist at Wockhardt Hospital, Mira Road, explains how one of the commonest of women’s health issues impact their metabolism and body functions.

Can PCOS trigger early onset of diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes may develop as a result of an unfavourable endocrine system response caused by insulin resistance. When the body’s cells start to reject insulin, when an excessive quantity of insulin is produced, or when both occur, Type 2 diabetes develops. Physical activity and a healthy diet may usually prevent or control Type 2 diabetes. However, evidence indicates that PCOS is a significant independent risk factor for developing diabetes. In actuality, women who develop PCOS as young adults are more likely to develop diabetes and perhaps, cardiac issues in later life.

How does this happen?

Women with PCOS frequently develop insulin resistance, which increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes even if their bodies can produce insulin. They also have greater amounts of androgens, which are female hormones that can inhibit ovulation and can lead to irregular periods, acne, thinning hair on the scalp, and excessive hair growth on the face and body.

PCOS can also lead to gestational diabetes, which occurs when women develop glucose surges during pregnancy. Why does this happen?

PCOS is a syndrome that can disrupt ovulation and lead to hormonal abnormalities. Women with PCOS frequently experience fertility issues but it is not impossible for them to become pregnant. Once an affected woman becomes pregnant, she should be informed that her risk of gestational diabetes has increased. A gestational diabetes testing may be performed on a PCOS-positive pregnant woman sooner than the standard 24-28 weeks.

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What is the treatment protocol?

Your doctor could advise more testing if PCOS has been identified as the cause of your condition. These tests could be:
• regular assessments of cholesterol and triglyceride levels, glucose tolerance and blood pressure
• depression and anxiety analysis
• Obstructive sleep apnea screening
The management of your concerns is the main goal of PCOS treatment. This could involve obesity, hirsutism, acne, or infertility. Depending on the condition, medication or lifestyle adjustments may be necessary.

Does treating one condition treat the other?

Compared to Type 2, the connection between Type 1 and PCOS is more obvious; Type 1 appears to increase a woman’s risk for the condition. One in four women with Type 1 will develop PCOS eventually. Metformin is a common diabetic medication, but some medical professionals also use it to treat PCOS. It decreases blood sugar levels and aids in the body’s usage of insulin. It could also aid in weight loss, alleviate PCOS symptoms, including irregular ovulation.

What’s the advice for people who have PCOS along with diabetes?

Consult your doctor if you experience irregular monthly periods, struggle to conceive or have excessive acne or hair growth. Ask about getting tested for Type 2 diabetes and how to manage the condition. You may reduce your chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, improve your diabetes management and avoid or postpone other health issues by making adjustments like losing weight and increasing your physical activity.

Additionally, there are medications that can lessen acne and hair growth while also assisting with ovulation. Make sure to discuss all of your treatment choices with your healthcare professional.

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