What Are the Complications of PCOS?

If you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), your ovaries may contain many tiny cysts that cause your body to produce too many hormones called androgens.

In men, androgens are made in the testes. They’re involved in the development of male sex organs and other male characteristics, like body hair. In women, androgens are made in the ovaries, but are later turned into estrogens. These are hormones that play an important role in the reproductive system, as well as the health of your heart, arteries, skin, hair, brain, and other body parts and systems.

If you have PCOS and your androgen levels are too high, you have higher odds for a number of possible complications. (These may differ from woman to woman):

​​​​​​​Trouble Getting Pregnant

Cysts in the ovaries can interfere with ovulation. That’s when one of your ovaries releases an egg each month. If a healthy egg isn’t available to be fertilized by a sperm, you can’t get pregnant.

You may still be able to get pregnant if you have PCOS. But you might have to take medicine and work with a fertility specialist to make it happen.

Insulin Issues

Doctors aren’t sure what causes PCOS. One theory is that insulin resistance may cause your body to make too many androgens.

Insulin is a hormone that helps the cells in your body absorb sugar (glucose) from your blood to be used as energy later. If you have insulin resistance, the cells in your muscles, organs, and other tissue don’t absorb blood sugar very well. As a result, you can have too much sugar moving through your bloodstream. This is called diabetes, and it can cause problems with your cardiovascular and nervous systems.

Other Possible Problems

You might have metabolic syndrome. This is a group of symptoms that raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as high triglyceride and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar levels.

Other common complications of PCOS include:

Some complications of PCOS may not be serious threats to your health, but they can be unwanted and embarrassing:

  • Abnormal body or facial hair growth
  • Thinning hair on your head
  • Weight gain around your middle
  • Acne, dark patches, and other skin problems

Getting Help

If you’re having irregular periods or are unable to get pregnant, see your doctor. The same holds for:

These symptoms may might not be caused by PCOS but could signal other serious health issues.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH on March 25, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Hormone Health Network: “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.”

National Women’s Health Resource Center: “Androgen.”

Mayo Clinic: “PCOS: Complications.”

U.S. Office on Women’s Health: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Prediabetes.”

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