PCOS and Diabetes: What You Need to Know About This Worrying Relationship

Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)
Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)

General Physician | 6+ years

PCOS and Diabetes
Living with diabetes, hypertension or any other chronic disease requires you to do multiple things – track vitals, take medicines & stay on top of your health at all times. If this overwhelms you, switch to Phable – India’s No. 1 BP & Sugar Management App to manage your condition better. Take charge of your health and stay connected with doctors, order medicines and do a whole lot more from the comfort of your home.

Living with PCOS is challenging enough. The looming risk of other chronic diseases adds to the stress. That’s right, you may have heard that once PCOS comes into your life, it is almost inevitable that Type 2 Diabetes will. What is this connection between PCOS and Diabetes? Can Diabetes be prevented if you have PCOS? Let’s find out. 

Contents:
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    What is PCOS?
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    What is Type 2 Diabetes?
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    Does PCOS Cause Diabetes?
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    How Common is Diabetes in PCOS Patients?
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    How to Prevent Diabetes in PCOS?
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    How to Reverse Insulin Resistance in PCOS?
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    When to See a Doctor?
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    Don’t Have Time To Read?
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    FAQs
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What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder commonly seen in women of reproductive age. In PCOS, the ovaries produce more than the normal amount of male hormones called androgens, which are produced in women but in smaller amounts. 

The increased androgen levels cause problems with ovulation, irregular menstrual cycles, and other symptoms of PCOS. 

Reseach hasn’t yet clearly established what causes PCOS. However, insulin resistance and high blood insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia) are considered to be contributory factors. 

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic disease where your blood sugar levels are high. Your cells develop resistance to insulin (a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose in your bloodstream) and your pancreas fails to produce enough insulin to regulate the increased blood glucose levels.

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Does PCOS Cause Diabetes?

Individuals with PCOS develop insulin resistance. When your body becomes resistant to insulin, your cells lose the ability to take up glucose (sugar) from your food, which causes increased blood sugar levels. This causes the pancreas to produce more insulin to stabilise the blood sugar levels. The high insulin levels in your blood lead to increased production of androgens in the body.

Studies suggest that when your body develops insulin resistance in PCOS, it leads to elevated blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), which, over time, may lead to prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes.

Thus, insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, seen in PCOS, are also responsible for the potential development of Type 2 Diabetes.

Apart from this, obesity and family history, which are risk factors for developing PCOS, are considered to be risk factors for the development of Type 2 Diabetes as well. 

How Common is Diabetes in PCOS Patients?

Research suggests that around 50% of women with PCOS develop diabetes by the time they are 40 years of age. PCOS patients also tend to get diabetes at a younger age than women who do not have the condition.

It should be noted that those with PCOS are also at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. Thus, women with PCOS should get screened for diabetes regularly. 

Some of the early signs of Type 2 Diabetes that you should look out for include:

  • Fatigue
  • Constant Hunger (polyphagia)
  • Excessive Thirst (polydipsia)
  • Frequent Urination (polyuria)
  • Unintended Weight Loss
  • Changes in Vision
  • Frequent infections
  • Slow Healing Sores
  • Tingling or Numbness in the Hands or Feet
  • Areas of Darkened Skin

How to Prevent Diabetes in PCOS?

You may be able to prevent Type 2 Diabetes even if you have PCOS. By adopting a healthy lifestyle for PCOS, which includes measures such as eating healthy, staying physically active, and getting regular health check-ups, you can reduce your weight and lower your blood glucose levels. This can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

How to Reverse Insulin Resistance in PCOS?

There are several small steps that you can take to reverse insulin resistance and prevent or delay Type 2 Diabetes. These steps include:

Healthy Diet

A healthy balanced PCOS diet can help you control your blood sugar levels and prevent the development of Type 2 Diabetes. You can include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and low-fat dairy in your meals. Also, try to have smaller portions of food multiple times a day.

Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight is necessary to control your blood sugar levels and the symptoms of PCOS. If you are overweight, even a minor reduction in your body weight can lead to a considerable change in your blood sugar levels. Having a healthy diet plan and staying active can help you manage your weight.

Regular Exercise

Make sure to stay physically active and exercise regularly. Other than maintaining a healthy weight, exercise also helps you control your blood sugar levels. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days a week. You can include aerobic exercises such as running or biking and low-impact exercises such as yoga or pilates in your workout plan.

Regular Blood Sugar Monitoring

Monitoring your blood sugar levels regularly can help you detect any changes in your blood sugar and take action early. This can be helpful, especially if you are at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Managing your blood sugar levels will in turn help you manage the symptoms of PCOS and prevent Type 2 Diabetes.

When to See a Doctor?

If you have irregular monthly periods or any other symptom of PCOS contact a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and begin treatment. If a diagnosis of PCOS is confirmed, you should discuss with the doctor about getting tested for Type 2 Diabetes and how to manage the condition if you have it.

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • PCOS is a hormonal imbalance resulting mainly from insulin resistance and higher androgen levels in your body. PCOS symptoms include a disturbance in your menstrual cycle, weight gain, acne, unwanted hair growth, etc.
  • The insulin resistance caused by PCOS increases the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes in women with PCOS. Around 50% of women with PCOS develop diabetes by the time they reach 40 years of age.
  • Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic disease where your blood sugar levels are consistently high. Your cells develop resistance to insulin and your pancreas fails to produce enough insulin to regulate the increased blood glucose levels.
  • Early signs of Type 2 Diabetes to watch out for include fatigue, frequent urination, excess thirst or hunger, weight loss, numbness in limbs, blurred vision, delay in the wound healing process, etc.
  • You can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes even if you have PCOS, by adopting healthy lifestyle measures such as eating healthy, staying active, maintaining an ideal weight, regular health check-ups and monitoring your blood sugar levels. These steps can help you reverse insulin resistance in PCOS. 
  • Start your PCOS management journey with Phable. Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading gynaecologists, endocrinologists, nutritionists, and dieticians; order medicines; book lab tests; and get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Check out our store to order healthy treats, weighing scales, fitness bands, and more! We also have a PCOS Management program that provides ‎360º care. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, PCOS affects blood sugar levels. In PCOS, your body develops insulin resistance, and your cells lose the ability to take up glucose from the bloodstream. This, in turn, increases blood sugar levels.

Yes, PCOS is a high-risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes. PCOS is accompanied by insulin resistance, in which your cells lose the ability to take up glucose from the bloodstream. This, in turn, increases your blood sugar levels. Long-term insulin resistance, high blood sugar levels, and high insulin levels may lead to Type 2 Diabetes.

Up to 50% of people with PCOS develop Type 2 Diabetes. 

Yes, PCOS can cause high insulin levels in your body. Insulin resistance in PCOS, leads to high blood glucose levels, due to which the pancreas is triggered to produce more and more insulin to manage the glucose in your bloodstream.

Yes, you can get pregnant with PCOS and Type 2 Diabetes. Follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Consult a doctor if you have any difficulty in conceiving.

PCOS and diabetes are interlinked, but not all PCOS patients are insulin resistant. Some women with PCOS meet the diagnostic criteria but do not develop insulin resistance. This condition is termed non-insulin-resistant PCOS.

Dr. Pakhi Sharma
Dr. Pakhi Sharma, MBBS
(General physician, 6+ years)
An expert in obstetrics and medical emergencies, Dr. Pakhi Sharma, an alumni of Sri Devaraj Urs University of Higher Education and Research Centre, is a general physician working at Phablecare. She has 6+ years of work experience spread across gynaecology and obstetrics, family medicine, and medical emergencies at renowned hospitals and clinics.

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