Risk factors for PCOS

Despite how common PCOS is, experts aren’t entirely sure what causes the condition, and it can’t be prevented. However, there are certain risk factors that make a woman more likely to develop PCOS.

Family history of PCOS

The most significant risk factor for PCOS is a family history of the condition. Although experts aren’t sure exactly how women develop PCOS, exactly, it’s at least partially caused by genetics. If a woman in your family was diagnosed with PCOS, be on the look out for the signs and symptoms of PCOS including excess facial and body hair, as well as irregular periods.

Weight problems and diabetes

Experts have also noticed a possible connection between PCOS, excess weight, and diabetes. In fact, it’s believed that between 40-80% of women with PCOS are considered either overweight or obese. Some research indicates that women with high insulin levels may be more likely to develop PCOS, as this can lead to greater androgen production in the body.

While most women who are obese or who have diabetes don’t have PCOS, studies suggest that weight loss can decrease PCOS symptoms, and that having type 1 diabetes increases one’s risk of PCOS.  Neither is an official risk factor for PCOS, but it’s wise to be aware that these conditions may be linked to PCOS.

Long-term use of certain medications

The American Diabetes Association reports a possible link between Valproate, a medication used to prevent seizures and treat bipolar disorder, and PCOS. A number of studies support this link, making it mandatory for doctors to inform their female patients about the risk before they start taking the medication.

  • “How many people are affected or at risk for PCOS?” NIH. National Institutes of Health, May 23 2013. Web.
  • R. Azziz, MD Kashar-Miller. “Family history as a risk factor for the polycystic ovary syndrome.” Journal of Pediatric endocrinology & Metabolism. 13 Suppl 5:1303-6. Web. 2000.
  • “Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).” Diabetes. American Diabetes Association, Jul 2 2014. Web.
  • Susan Sam. “Obesity and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.” Obesity Management. 3(2): 69–73. Web. Apr 2007.
  • Ruta Nonacs. “Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome in Women Taking Valproate.” Center for Women’s Mental Health. Massachusetts General Hospital, Nov 8 2007. Web.
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