Complications of Polycystic Ovarian Disease or syndrome (PCOD or PCOS)


Polycystic ovary syndrome is a complex disorder which can impact many body functions. If not well managed, PCOS can lead to serious long-term complications such as weight gain or obesity, endometrial cancer, cardiovascular disease.

October 24, 2017

PCOD or PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Disease or syndrome) occurs when level of sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone of women go out of control. These imbalance of hormone level will induces growth of small ovarian cysts which  which results into pregnancy related issues. In polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD), the patient will have multiple small cysts in her ovaries . These cysts occur when the regular changes of a normal menstrual cycle are disrupted. The ovary is enlarged and produces excessive amounts of androgen and estrogenic hormones. This excessive secretion of hormones along with the absence of ovulation, may cause infertility.

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a complex disorder which can impact many body functions. If not well managed, PCOS can lead to serious long-term complications such as weight gain or obesity, endometrial cancer, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Many of the treatments that are used for your PCOS will also help to prevent many of the complications. The complications include:

Weight gain & obesity:

Most of the women with PCOS are overweight or obese. This excess weight is more likely to be concentrated around the abdominal (stomach) region. Having a high amount of abdominal obesity, is associated with:

Problems with infertility:

A higher risk of insulin resistance in which the body does not use the available insulin effectively to help keep the glucose levels stable.

A higher risk of type 2 diabetes:

A higher risk of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and heart disease.

Metabolic syndrome:

Metabolic Syndrome is a group of risk factors which commonly occur together and increase ones risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The most common metabolic changes associated with this syndrome includes:

Increased abdominal weight

  • High blood pressure
  • High fasting blood sugar
  • High levels of triglycerides.
  • Low levels of good cholesterol, or HDL 
Since metabolic syndrome is linked to obesity and insulin resistance, women with PCOS are at an increased risk for these above conditions.

Prediabetes & type 2 diabetes:

Women with PCOS have increased risk of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes than women without PCOS. Prediabetes is the stage before type 2 diabetes. This risk is further increased by:

  •     being overweight or obese
  •     having insulin resistance
  •     having a family history of type 2 diabetes

Women with PCOS have a higher risk of developing diabetes in pregnancy which is known as gestational diabetes. This risk increases if you are overweight when you are pregnant.

Cardiovascular disease:

Women with PCOS are at twice as much risk of heart related complications or stroke. There are a number of factors that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease such as:

  • high blood pressure
  • high blood fats or cholesterol
  • high levels of inflammatory proteins which can alter the function of blood vessels and increase insulin resistance
  • high levels of 'bad' cholesterol or low density lipoprotein cholesterol which increases the risk of developing heart disease
These conditions can increase your risk for a heart attack and stroke.

Endometrial Cancer:

Women with PCOS do have a slightly higher chance for developing endometrial cancer than women who do not have PCOD. The main cause of endometrial cancer is having very infrequent periods. The more irregular and fewer periods a woman has, the greater her risk becomes developing PCOS.  During a normal menstrual cycle, the endometrium is exposed to hormones, such as 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 abnormal cells which can develop into cancerous cells as a woman ages.

Restoring hormone balance by improving the regularity of menstrual cycle is an important part of managing PCOS which can be done by following a  healthy diet, doing regular exercise, and loosing weight. Oral contraceptives, metformin and inositol can also help to improve menstrual regularity in some women with PCOS.