Are you gaining weight even though you eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly? Don’t be so quick to blame it on a “bad metabolism”. There’s a health condition that affects almost 3.5 million women in the United Kingdom that not only causes weight gain and obesity, but also leads to hair loss, acne, and infertility – and it’s one that many doctors fail to diagnose in a timely manner. Here’s what you need to know about the elusive condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome.
PCOS as a Cause of Obesity
Polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS is a condition tiny cysts form on the ovaries. Although the ovaries of a person with PCOS may be covered in these tiny cysts, they’re often painless which can make the diagnosis of PCOS more difficult. Polycystic ovarian syndrome can also cause a multitude of other symptoms including irregular menstrual periods, acne, thinning hair, increased facial hair, and problems with fertility. It’s also a cause of obesity and unexplained weight gain.
Why Does PCOS Cause Obesity and Weight Gain?
Women with PCOS usually develop insulin resistance where their body is unable to properly use the insulin it makes. Insulin is needed for glucose to be taken up by cells for use as an energy source. When the cells aren’t able to use insulin normally to process glucose, the body pumps out more insulin in an attempt to lower blood sugar levels. The person with PCOS usually has high circulating levels of insulin – a condition which can lead to weight gain. Women with PCOS may put on weight very fast – despite eating a healthy diet and it usually deposits disproportionately in their waist and abdominal region which can be a clue to the diagnosis.
Other Symptoms of PCOS
Other symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome may include an increase in blood lipid levels and higher blood sugar levels. Triglyceride levels are usually elevated and HDL levels (the good cholesterol) are often low. Blood pressure levels may be high and some women will experience mood and personality changes including anxiety and depression.
Symptoms of PCOS: How is Polycystic Ovary Disease Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of PCOS is usually made on the basis of symptoms – particularly a history of irregular periods, increased facial hair, and unexplained weight gain. Blood tests looking for elevated lipid levels and high blood sugar levels and the use of vaginal ultrasound may be helpful in making the diagnosis. It’s important to treat this syndrome early since it can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, infertility, and cancer of the uterus.
PCOS as a Cause of Obesity: How is It Treated?
The best treatment for PCOS is weight loss which helps to reduce the insulin resistance that causes the weight gain and obesity. Since a woman with PCOS may have more problems losing weight than women without the condition, reducing carbohydrates in the diet and doing regular aerobic exercise can help treat the symptoms of PCOS. There are other natural medications available to treat the other common symptoms of PCOS such as excessive hair growth and infertility.
PCOS as a Cause of Obesity: The Bottom Line?
If you’re perplexed as to why you’re gaining weight, see your doctor. You could be one of the 3.5 million women suffering from PCOS – and not even know it.