What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a complex hormone disorder that causes such symptoms as irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, excessive body hair, acne, and obesity. The syndrome is named for the tiny cysts that MAY form in the ovaries when the hormone imbalance interrupts the ovulation process. The term polycystic means composed of many cysts. If the hormone imbalance is left untreated, the syndrome may lead to life-threatening illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and uterine and endometrial cancers.

There are five different types of PCOS and most ladies fall mainly into one of them:

  • traditional PCOS -- anovulatory, increased androgens, no insulin resistance
  • endocrine syndrome X -- anovulatory, increased androgens, insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes
  • non-traditional PCOS --anovulatory, normal androgens, obese, insulin resistant or type 2 diabetes
  • non-traditional PCOS -- ovulatory, increased androgens, mild insulin resistance
  • idiopathic hirsutism -- ovulatory, increased androgens, no insulin resistance

What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance occurs when the normal amount of insulin secreted by the pancreas is not able to "unlock the door" to cells. To compensate, the pancreas secretes additional insulin. When the body's cells resist or do not respond to even high levels of insulin, glucose builds up in the blood resulting in high blood sugar. Even people with diabetes who take oral medication or insulin injections to control their blood glucose levels, can have higher than normal blood insulin levels due to insulin resistance.