Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (i.e. PCOS) is talked about a lot in women’s health, but did you know there’s not just one singular cause? In fact, there are FOUR different kinds of PCOS.
This post outlines the four types, the common causes and the common symptoms of each.
Insulin-resistant PCOS is one of the more common types seen in women's health. This type of PCOS is due to elevated/high insulin levels in the body. Elevated insulin leads to an increase in blood sugar levels and when insulin circulates in the body at higher levels, more androgens will be produced. Androgens are one of (many) sex hormones present in both the male and female body, with testosterone being the most predominant androgen in either gender. Androgens are responsible for bone density, muscle development, puberty, red blood cell production and sexual health and function. In women specifically, they help regulate menstruation, aid in conception and pregnancy, and help minimize bone loss.
Thus, the symptoms seen with insulin-resistant PCOS stem from high androgen levels. Some common symptoms include:
Amenorrhea (missed periods) or abnormal menstruation
Excessive hair growth OR loss
High blood pressure and high cholesterol
Inflammatory PCOS occurs when there is chronic inflammation present in the body. Inflammatory stress can result from a host of different factors (toxic environments, stress, high-inflammatory foods, etc.). The presence of inflammation for a prolonged period of time can cause an imbalance of hormones, which (similar to insulin-resistant PCOS) can increase the levels of androgens in the body.
Post-pill PCOS occurs when an individual abruptly stops taking oral birth control. This is due to presence of synthetic progestin and the abrupt absence of this hormone within the body. The body recognizes that there is no longer a source of progestin being supplied to the body and the ovaries then produce an oversupply of androgens. While androgen levels are elevated (as with the other forms of PCOS already covered), this type of PCOS rarely results in insulin resistance.
Unlike the other forms of PCOS, adrenal PCOS is actually not driven by inflammation, but rather the response the body has to stress. When the body is under an elevated level of stress, DHEAS levels are high (this is a type of androgen formed in the adrenal glands). One of the best "solutions" for this form of PCOS is stress management and intentional recovery practices.
PCOS can be a “scary” diagnosis for a lot of women, but it doesn’t have to be. Getting the proper care from your doctor and even support from a coach who is versed in this diagnosis may be all you need to rebuild that confidence in yourself and in your health.