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The Possible Causes of PCOS: Is it Hereditary?

The Possible Causes of PCOS: Is it Hereditary?

Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in women. It can result in various symptoms that affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, hair, skin, and weight. What are the possible causes of PCOS? Read on to find out.

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

The possible causes of PCOS

Until now, scientists still do not know the exact reason why polycystic ovary syndrome happens; but, they have looked into the following factors that possibly increase a woman’s risk of developing the condition.

Genetics and heredity

Scientists believe that polycystic ovary syndrome is a “familial condition,” which means it’s likely driven by genetics or heredity. As of now, they understand that a woman’s risk of developing PCOS increases if she has relatives who have experienced it. They also recognize that changes in genes may be causing the syndrome. However, researchers still cannot identify the exact genes that trigger the condition.

High insulin levels

The possible causes of PCOS also include high insulin levels and insulin resistance. To get the complete picture, let’s first define insulin.

Insulin is the hormone that our pancreas produces. It helps our cells absorb sugar (glucose), our body’s preferred energy source.

When cells are insulin resistant, they do not respond well to insulin, leading to an inability to use sugar. Unused sugar stays in the blood, causing hyperglycemia, which, in turn, prompts the body to think that we still need more insulin.

As a result, the pancreas unnecessarily produces more insulin, which only collects in the blood.

Reports say that most women with polycystic ovary syndrome also have insulin resistance, and almost half will develop type 2 diabetes once they reach the age of 40.

possible causes of PCOS

Increased androgen levels

Included in the possible causes of PCOS is increased level of androgen, a group of hormones responsible for developing male characteristics.

To clarify, even though some reports call androgen as “male hormone,” women also produce them; it’s just that men usually have higher androgen levels than females.

A woman with a polycystic ovary, however, produces more androgen than usual. This results in common PCOS symptoms like male-pattern baldness and hirsutism, excess hair growth in body parts like the face, chest, and armpits.

The PCOS Symptoms Checklist for Women

Furthermore, increased androgen levels in women can prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg cell during ovulation, leading to fertility concerns.

The exact cause of excessive androgen production in women with PCOS is still unknown.

But, experts suspect that the problem may stem from the ovary itself, other organs that produce the hormones (adrenal glands and fat cells), or the part of the brain that initiates the production.

It’s also possible that insulin resistance causes excessive androgen levels.

Other hormonal changes

It seems like the answer to the question, why does PCOS happen? lies in the hormones. Besides increased androgen and insulin levels, medical experts state that the following hormonal changes may likewise lead to polycystic ovary syndrome:

  • Above normal levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) – LH is a hormone that stimulates ovulation. However, when produced in excess, it may negatively affect the ovaries.
  • Decreased sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) – SHBG is a protein that binds with testosterone, one type of androgen, to reduce its effects. Low levels of SHBG may cause too much testosterone to enter your body tissues.
  • Increased prolactin – Some women with PCOS also have raised levels of prolactin, a hormone that promotes milk production by stimulating the mammary glands.

As with increased insulin and androgen levels, medical experts still do not know what exactly causes the abnormal changes in these hormones.

Foods to Avoid with PCOS: What You Need To Know

Key Takeaways

What are the possible causes of PCOS? According to experts, the exact cause of this condition is still unknown. However, they believe that altered gene expression, along with heredity, may be a contributing factor.

Furthermore, hormonal changes also come into play. Women with PCOS often have abnormally high androgens and insulin, resulting in notable PCOS symptoms like anovulation, irregular periods, male-pattern baldness, and hirsutism.

Learn more about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome 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.

Sources

Genetics of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2776334/
Accessed December 9, 2020

What causes PCOS?
https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pcos/conditioninfo/causes
Accessed December 9, 2020

PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and Diabetes
https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/pcos.html
Accessed December 9, 2020

Ovarian overproduction of androgens
https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001165.htm
Accessed December 9, 2020

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353443
Accessed December 9, 2020

Polycystic ovary syndrome
https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/polycystic-ovary-syndrome
Accessed December 9, 2020

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos
Accessed December 9, 2020

SHBG Blood Test
https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/shbg-blood-test/
Accessed December 9, 2020

Picture of the author
Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. on Dec 13, 2020
Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, M.D.
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