PCOS And Menopause

February 2, 2010

PCOS Doesn't Go Away

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a metabolic disorder that affects more than seven percent of women of all ages, worldwide. For women of childbearing age, it is the number one cause of infertility and, if left untreated, can result in endometrial cancer. Women with PCOS are at greater risk for diabetes, heart disease and also experience such unpleasant ailments as hirsutism and acne.

Some doctors believe that PCOS disappears after menopause. However, PCOS can continue both during and long after menopause with some women experiencing an exacerbation of symptoms and others an improvement in them.

Not Enough Research

Unfortunately, there is a lack of research in the field of PCOS and menopause and since PCOS can be difficult to diagnose after menopause, there are many who suffer with it and have no answers for their symptoms. Since one of the main symptoms of PCOS is menstrual irregularities, this becomes a moot point for menopausal women to use as an indication of the syndrome. Also less informative after menopause are the hormone levels of androgens (male hormones) because sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) levels decrease so free androgen activity increases. This can potentially lead to excessive hair growth on all parts of the body (hirsutism) or alopecea (loss of hair).

Insulin Resistance Is The Primary Issue

Nevertheless, it is important to address the issues of PCOS in menopausal women because of the net results of insulin resistance, another of the trademarks of PCOS. A menopausal woman with insulin resistance is at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, abnormal lipid panels, hypertension and more.

Add to the the struggle excess weight that often plagues a woman in menopause. A woman with PCOS has an even more difficult time keeping her weight under control during menopause because of insulin resistance. Under normal circumstances, a woman in menopause will hold on to weight because her body needs the fat and the adrenals to produce hormones. Before menopause, the body relied on the ovaries for hormone production. Add insulin resistance for women with PCOS and you have a very challenging situation when it comes to weight loss during menopause.

Even A Hysterectomy Doesn't End The Syndrome

Even if a woman's uterus and ovaries are removed she will still experience the effects of PCOS during menopause, since sex hormones are produced in several places in the body (ovaries, adrenal glands and fat cells). Removing the uterus, cervix, or ovaries may have some effect on hormone imbalances, but the removal will not affect insulin resistance.

How To Deal With The Effects Of Insulin Resistance During Menopause

In order to help deal with the effects of insulin resistance and PCOS during menopause, a woman should maintain a strict exercise program and a diet that is low in carbohydrates. Insulin relies on carbs for production, so by reducing the amount of carbs in the diet, insulin production is decreased. A slower metabolism, which often comes with menopause, deals better with lower carbohydrates than high carbohydrates. This is another way to keep weight down. Supplementation and nutritional support may be useful to some women who are going through menopause and have PCOS.

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