PCOS - Finding Balance
The Brain and Body Connection
The hormones involved in PCOS, “androgens” and “insulin,” have a synergistic effect on one another. Each is dependent on the other to produce the appropriate level of hormones to keep the body in balance.
Hormone production begins in the brain with the hypothalamus which sends signals to the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland in turn sends signals of varying size and frequency to parts of the body to produce hormones. If some hormones are created in higher amounts than normal, this may cause the ovaries to produce excess androgens. Changes in the ovaries may occur, giving them a polycystic appearance.
- Androgens – Often referred to as the “male hormone,” are produced by both men and women. Excess androgens can be created by the ovaries and adrenal glands. The development and release of eggs during ovulation can be affected by higher than normal levels or androgens.
- Insulin – Needed to process food into sugar (glucose) and store in cells for energy. Some patients with PCOS are more resistant to the insulin they produce and need higher levels of insulin to break down their glucose. This is called “insulin resistance.”
The cycle and production these hormones have on one another are repeated continuously. Excess male circulating hormone androgens result in common symptoms of PCOS such as issues with ovulation, irregular menses, acne, abnormal hair growth, etc. Insulin receptor abnormalities and “insulin resistance” are of great concern as this can lead to serious health complications, particularly the risk of prediabetes or diabetes itself.
- Up to 80% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance
- More than 50% of women with PCOS will have diabetes or become pre-diabetic before the age of 40
- Women with PCOS are up to 7 times more likely to develop diabetes than women their same age without PCOS
Your lifestyle and overall health contribute directly to the effects PCOS has on you and your body. People who are obese have excess adipose (fat) cells that produce higher levels of estrogen. Estrogen signals the brain to down-regulate hormones needed to produce estrogen and signal ovulation. This results in less hormones and irregular ovulation. Those diagnosed with PCOS are at an increased health risk for cancer, high blood pressure and stroke. Abnormal blood levels and sleep apnea may also occur. Additionally, endometrial cancer (cancer of the inner lining of the uterus) is of concern.
Even though PCOS is quite common, 50% of women saw three or more health care professionals before being diagnosed with PCOS. It is important to see a specialist if you suspect you have symptoms of PCOS. Consulting with a specialist is the first step in discovering how to effectively diagnose, treat and manage your symptoms.
Florida Fertility Institute is pleased to provide care to those women with PCOS, especially those seeking to become pregnant. Given the nature of our specialty, we comprehensively treat women with PCOS in the early stages and as women progress in their years towards family planning later in life.