Complications Related To PCOS

preventing pcos complications
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In the past, the focus of PCOS has been on the menstrual cycle and a woman’s fertility. However, polycystic ovary syndrome is a complex disorder which can impact many body systems. If not well managed, PCOS can lead to serious long-term complications such as endometrial cancer, heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Here's what to know about these complications and how to prevent them. 

Endometrial Cancer

Women with PCOS do have a slightly higher chance for developing endometrial cancer than women who don't have PCOD.

The more irregular and fewer periods a woman has, the greater her risk becomes. During a normal menstrual cycle, the endometrium is exposed to hormones, like estrogen, which cause the lining to proliferate and thicken. When ovulation does not occur, which is typical in PCOS, the lining is not shed and is exposed to much higher amounts of estrogen causing the endometrium to grow much thicker than normal. This is what increases the chance of cancer cells beginning to grow.

Establishing a regular menstrual cycle by restoring hormone balance is an important part of managing PCOS. A healthy diet, exercise, and weight loss are important. Besides oral contraceptives, metformin and inositol can also help to improve menstrual regularity in some women with PCOS. 

Heart Disease

Having PCOS increases a woman’s chances of getting heart-related complications. This is due to the high insulin levels that have been associated with PCOS and are known to increase one’s risk for high triglycerides,inflammatory markers, blood pressure, and atherosclerosis.

These conditions can increase your risk for a heart attack and stroke.


Women with PCOS frequently have insulin resistance, meaning their body is resistant to using glucose properly resulting in higher glucose levels and more insulin produced. Over time, consistently high levels of glucose in the blood can lead to diabetes.

Metabolic syndrome

Metabolic Syndrome, or Syndrome X, is a grouping of risk factors which commonly occur together and increase ones risk for cardiovascular disease. The most common metabolic changes associated with this syndrome include the following:

  • Increased abdominal weight
  • High levels of triglycerides.
  • Low levels of good cholesterol, or HDL
  • High blood pressure
  • High fasting blood sugar

Due to its link to obesity and insulin resistance, women with PCOS are at an increased risk for this cluster of conditions.

How Can I Reduce My Risk for Complications?

Despite the increased risks for complications in PCOS, they are preventable. The first and foremost thing you can do is make lasting positive changes your diet and exercise plans. Consider consulting with a registered dietitian nutritionist to help you. Adding in just a little bit of activity each week can be very helpful. In fact, starting with a commitment to walk 10,000 steps each day is a great way to get started. 

Getting blood work done at least annually will help you to know your risk factors.

Talk with your doctor about your risk factors and what medications or supplements may help prevent them. Being proactive with your health is the key to taking control over PCOS before it controls you.

Updated by PCOS expert Angela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN 

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