Other health problems that have been linked to PCOS include information on prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and endometrial cancer.
You can also learn about BMI (body mass index) and how to measure your BMI.
What are the complications of PCOS?
Weight gain & obesity
Prediabetes & type 2 diabetes
What you can do
Coping with the symptoms of PCOS and managing the treatments can be demanding. To then learn there can be complications and added risks to your health from PCOS can be distressing.
Just being aware there are added risks is an important first step. Once you have the symptoms of PCOS under control then you can turn your mind to thinking about ways to prevent further complications. The good news is that many of the treatments you will use for your PCOS will also help to prevent many of the complications.
Besides insulin resistance and the high levels of androgens ('male' hormones) associated with PCOS, other health issues women with PCOS may encounter include:
PCOS can occur in women of any weight, however, up to 75% of women with PCOS are overweight or obese. This excess weight is more likely to be concentrated around the abdominal (stomach) region. This gives you an 'apple' shape. Women without PCOS tend to be a 'pear' shape, with weight concentrated around the hips, buttocks and thighs.
Being overweight, and especially having a high amount of abdominal obesity, is associated with:
A simple way to assess your abdominal weight is to measure your waist circumference. The recommended waist circumference is less than 80cm for adult women.
To measure this accurately you should:
Below are the health implications associated with each waist circumference category:
Increased risk of obesity and developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Substantially increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Another way to measure if you are overweight is to calculate your BMI (Body Mass Index). You calculate your BMI as your weight (in kilograms) divided by your height (in metres) squared (height x height).
For example, Sally (not her real name) weighs 90kg and is 167cm tall, will have a BMI of 32.3:
Weight (kg) ÷ Height (m) squared = BMI
90 ÷ (1.67 x 1.67) = 32.3
When you know what your BMI is you can look at the table below to find out which weight category you are in. You will see that Sally's BMI of 32.3 would place her in the obese category. Better health channel have a BMI calculator to help you work out your BMI if you need.
|BMI score||Weight category|
|Less than 20||Underweight|
|Greater than 30||Obese|
Women with PCOS have a higher prevalence of 'metabolic syndrome'. Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions (listed below) that often occur together and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease:
Women with PCOS have between four and seven times increased risk of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes than women without PCOS. Prediabetes is the stage before type 2 diabetes. Women with PCOS are also more likely to develop diabetes earlier, eg in their 30s and 40s. This risk is further increased by:
Women with PCOS have a higher risk of developing diabetes in pregnancy (gestational diabetes). This risk increases if you are overweight when pregnant.
Women with PCOS are thought to be at higher risk of having future heart disease or stroke. There are a number of factors that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease such as:
While being overweight can increase these risks, these risks appear to be increased in PCOS independent of the effect of obesity.
Having the condition PCOS does not cause endometrial cancer, rather it is having very infrequent periods which may increase the risk of endometrial cancer. Chronic anovulation (lack of eggs being released regularly) leads to a lack of menstruation or shedding of the lining of the uterus (endometrium). If this happens, the endometrium can thicken which can increase the risk of abnormal cells that, as a woman ages, can develop into cancerous cells.
This risk can be greatly reduced with treatments such as the oral contraceptive pill. By improving the regularity of the menstrual cycle, the uterine lining is shed more often during menstruation.
Adequate physical activity and having a healthy body weight can also assist in normalising periods and reducing the risk of endometrial cancer.
If you are worried about the complications of PCOS it is helpful to:
This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at April 2017.