Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) & Obesity

By Raymond G. Lau, MD & Antonia Pinckney, CDE, RD, RN

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that is observed in women who have obesity.  One symptom of this disease is increased hair growth in abnormal areas.  Women may find growth in areas such as the face or chest. Another common symptom may include irregular periods with possible infertility.  If you have either of these symptoms, you may possibly have polycystic ovarian syndrome.


The effect of these symptoms can be distressing. The appearance of excess hair growth is often embarrassing to many women.  Perhaps more important is the effect on fertility.  It is important to recognize that there are available treatments for the symptoms of PCOS.  Often an endocrinologist or gynecologist may help you find the appropriate treatment.

It is also important to recognize that PCOS has been associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.  This is not surprising since over half of those with PCOS are considered obese. Women with this syndrome need to be aware of this increased health risk and take preventative measures.  This includes living a healthy lifestyle and having regular blood glucose testing.

While there are many medications available to treat the symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome, researchers are always seeking better ways to help those with PCOS.  Modest weight loss may help improve the hormone balance and fertility (1).  Bariatric surgery, specifically gastric bypass, has been shown to have a powerful effect on improving PCOS symptoms (2, 3).  If you have undergone bariatric surgery and carried a diagnosis of PCOS, your chances of improvement of PCOS related problems are much greater.


(1). Patel SM, Nestler JE. Fertility in polycystic ovary syndrome. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2006;35(1):137–155, vii.

(2) Jamal M et al.  Roux-en-Y gastric   bypass ameliorates polycystic ovary syndrome and dramatically improves conception rates:  a 9-year analysis.  Surg Obes Relat Dis 2012 Jul;8(4):440-4.

(3) Eid GM et al.  Effective Treatment of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome with Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.  Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2005 Mar-Apr;1(2):77-80.


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