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PCOS Effects and Complications Women Should Watch Out For

PCOS Effects and Complications Women Should Watch Out For

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition among women of childbearing age. Experts call it a hormonal disorder that leads to symptoms such as irregular periods, increased androgen levels, and cysts in the ovaries. What are the different PCOS effects and complications?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): All You Need To Know

The Effects of PCOS

The effects of polycystic ovary syndrome are mostly evident in its accompanying signs and symptoms. Some are mild discomforts that women can live with, while others cause a level of distress. Below are the most common effects of PCOS:


Women with PCOS often experience missed or irregular periods. To put this into context, there are cases when women only experience nine menstrual cycles in a year, while others have more than 35 days between their monthly periods.

This infrequent or irregular menstrual cycle makes it hard for a woman to conceive. According to reports, many patients find out about their PCOS condition because they sought medical attention about infertility concerns.

PCOS effects and complications

Increased androgens

When talking about PCOS effects and complications, it’s important to understand the role of androgens.

Many of us know androgen as the “male hormone.” However, women produce it, too, in smaller amounts.

In polycystic ovary syndrome, the patient experiences an increase in their androgen levels that result in symptoms such as baldness, extra growth of unwanted body hair, and oily skin with acne breakouts.

Increased insulin

Most women with polycystic ovary syndrome also have increased insulin levels or insulin resistance. Our body uses insulin to absorb sugar and use it as energy.

Problems such as increased insulin levels or insulin resistance may lead to high blood sugar, the appearance of dark patches of skin (acanthosis nigricans), and even excess weight gain and obesity.

The potential complications of PCOS

The effects we enumerated above already warrant medical intervention; however, when not managed appropriately, PCOS can further progress and increase the woman’s risk of developing:


Women with PCOS who experience increased insulin levels or insulin resistance may develop pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes later in their life. Additionally, if they get pregnant, they may experience gestational diabetes and even gestational hypertensive disorders, such as preeclampsia.

Endometrial cancer

According to experts, one of the potential long-term complications of PCOS is endometrial cancer.

They explain that women normally experience monthly thickening of the endometrial lining in preparation for pregnancy. When fertilization doesn’t happen, the body “sheds” the extra lining during menstruation.

However, women with PCOS have irregular or infrequent menstruation; that’s why they cannot fully shed the thickened lining. This makes them more at risk of having endometrial cancer.

Foods to Avoid with PCOS: What You Need To Know

Cardiovascular problems

Potential PCOS effects and complications also include cardiovascular problems.

You see increased androgen levels can affect the woman’s lipid profile. That means they risk having an increased amount of fat in their blood (hyperlipidemia). In some cases, women may show increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and reduced high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol.

This imbalance in lipid levels and overweight and obesity increases a woman’s risk of developing cardiovascular conditions, such as hypertension.


Metabolic syndrome is also one of the potential long-term complications of PCOS. It happens when a person experiences high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure at the same time. This syndrome further puts a woman at risk of heart disease.

Obstructive sleep apnea

We need further research about it, but current studies suggest that women with PCOS are at a higher risk of having obstructive sleep apnea, a condition wherein the person repeatedly stops and starts breathing in their sleep. It happens because the throat muscles relax and block the airway.

Depression and anxiety

And finally, we have depression and anxiety as part of the potential PCOS effects and complications.

Developing potential long-term complications such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and sleep apnea can significantly impact a person’s daily life. This can lead to frustration, anxiety, and even depression.

Key Takeaways

It’s crucial to manage polycystic ovary syndrome to prevent the occurrence of potential complications such as endometrial cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and sleep apnea.

Learn more about PCOS here.

Ovulation Calculator

Ovulation Calculator

Tracking your period cycle, determines your most fertile days and increases your chance of conceiving or applying for birth control.

Ovulation Calculator

Tracking your period cycle, determines your most fertile days and increases your chance of conceiving or applying for birth control.

Ovulation Calculator

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Long term complications of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25156132/#:~:text=But%20PCOS%20has%20also%20long,or%20dyslipidaemia%20are%20frequently%20described. Accessed January 19, 2021 Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=85&ContentID=p08334 Accessed January 19, 2021 Long term health consequences of polycystic ovarian syndrome: a review analysis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2683463/ Accessed January 19, 2021 Health Risks Associated with PCOS https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/conditions-services/endocrinology-metabolic-disorders/polycystic-ovary-syndrome/pcos-risk Accessed January 19, 2021 Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/symptoms-causes/syc-20353439 Accessed January 19, 2021
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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Jan 21, 2021
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel