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What problems can polycystic ovarian syndrome cause?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) has a genetic component and can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes if left untreated. There is also a risk for endometrial disease, including endometrial polyps or even hyperplasia or cancer if left untreated for many years.

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Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can be at an increased risk for developing several other conditions. Irregular menstrual periods and the absence of ovulation cause women to produce estrogen, but not progesterone. Without progesterone, which causes the endometrium to shed each month as a menstrual period, the endometrium may grow too much and undergo cell changes. This is a pre-cancerous condition called endometrial hyperplasia. If the thickened endometrium is not treated, over a long period of time it may turn into endometrial cancer. PCOS also is linked to other diseases that occur later in life, such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), high blood pressure and heart disease.

Depression or mood swings also are common in women with PCOS. Although more research is needed to find out about this link, there are studies linking depression to diabetes. Therefore, in PCOS, depression may be related to insulin resistance. It also could be a result of the hormonal imbalances and the cosmetic symptoms of the condition. Acne, hair loss and other symptoms of PCOS can lead to poor self-esteem. Infertility and miscarriages also can be very stressful. Medications that restore the balance to hormone levels or antidepressants can help these feelings.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.