PCOS and Diabetes Mellitus: All you need to know

Polycystic ovary syndrome symptoms often begin soon after a woman first begins having periods (menarche). In some cases, PCOS develops later during the reproductive years, for instance, in response to substantial weight gain. PCOS has many signs; things you or your doctor can see or measure and symptoms; things that you notice or feel. All of these can worsen with obesity. Every woman with PCOS may be affected a little differently.

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How are PCOS and Diabetes related?

It has been seen that women with PCOS most often develop lifelong complications, one of them being Diabetes Mellitus. It is important that PCOS be diagnosed sooner to avoid these complications.

One important link between PCOS and Diabetes Mellitus is Insulin Resistance.

Insulin Resistance

One of the most important functions of the pancreas is to produce Insulin. Insulin is typically secreted in response to increased blood levels of glucose. When we eat carbohydrates, the glucose molecules enter into our blood within about 15 minutes. Insulin allows cells throughout the body to take in the glucose, which is later used for energy.

When someone has insulin resistance, the body does not respond to insulin as efficiently or as quickly as it should, leading to high glucose levels in the blood, low energy, or both. With time, larger and larger amounts of insulin are required before glucose is taken into the body tissues. Prolonged high levels of glucose in the blood can lead to pre-diabetes, and then, to diabetes.

It is thus important for women diagnosed with PCOS, to know the symptoms of Insulin Resistance. Insulin is an appetite stimulant, which is perhaps why many women with PCOS report frequent cravings for sweets and other carbohydrate-rich foods. This leads to weight gain, which increases the risk of health problems such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, osteoarthritis, and diabetes.

PCSO, Insulin Resistance and Diabetes Mellitus: Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the cells of the body become resistant to insulin, an abnormal amount of insulin is made, or both. While type 2 diabetes is typically preventable or manageable through physical exercise and a proper diet, research shows that PCOS is a strong independent risk factor for developing diabetes.

In fact, women who experience PCOS in young adulthood are at an elevated risk for diabetes and, potentially, fatal heart problems, later in life.

Diagnosis of Diabetes Mellitus in PCOS:

When women are diagnosed with PCOS, they are immediately also tested for Insulin Resistance and Diabetes Mellitus

Tests used to screen for insulin resistance include:

Fasting blood glucose test: You will be instructed to abstain from food and drinks for a specific amount of time before your blood is drawn to check your blood sugar level. If your level is elevated, your doctor may want you to take further tests to determine how your body processes sugar.

Glucose tolerance test: Your blood sugar level will be checked, and then you will be given a special drink containing sugar. Your blood sugar will then be measured at designated intervals after you have consumed the drink to see how long it takes for your cells to process the sugar. If your glucose levels remain elevated for longer than normal, this may indicate that you are becoming resistant to insulin.

Glycosylated hemoglobin A1C: This is a blood test that measures your average glucose levels over the past three months.

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