Does PCOS Cause Fatigue?

Can PCOS Cause Exhaustion?

Yes, absolutely. Exhaustion is a frequent complaint of women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It may be due to the fact that PCOS is linked to an imbalance in the endocrine (hormone) system, and is closely associated with thyroid disease and insulin resistance (both endocrine disorders associated with fatigue). As well as tiredness, other symptoms of PCOS include:

Irregular periods.
• Problems falling pregnant.
• Excessive hair growth (hirsutism).
• Severe acne (picture).
• Male patterned baldness (read, does PCOS cause hair loss?).
• Difficulties losing weight (read, can I lose weight with PCOS?).
• Pelvic pain.
• Sleep apnea.

PCOS and Insulin Resistance

Studies show that at least 75 percent of women who receive a diagnosis of PCOS have insulin resistance. If you have insulin resistance it means that the cells of your body have become less responsive to the insulin produced by your pancreas (locate your pancreas). Insulin tells the cells to take sugar in from your blood and convert it to energy. When they become resistant to insulin, less energy is converted and the pancreas has to work harder to produce more insulin to kick-start the process. You end up with a sluggish system and craving carbs (a quick source of sugar/energy). Evidence shows that about 30 percent of people with insulin resistance will also develop type 2 diabetes. The excess of insulin floating around the blood stream can also over stimulate the ovaries and lead to infertility. Insulin resistance produces no symptoms but your doctor can perform a blood test to check for signs of the condition. Medically, a diagnosis is given if 3 of the following elements are present:

1. Abdominal fat: your waist circumference measures greater than 35 inches (40 in men).
2. Your HDL blood cholesterol level is less than 50 mg/dL (less than 40 mg/dL for men).
3. Your fasting blood triglycerides are 150 mg/dL or greater.
4. Your blood pressure is 130/85 mmHg or greater.
5. Your fasting glucose is 110 mg/dL or greater.

Personal Stories

I'm a stay at home mom with two young energetic girls. Since they were born I've been constantly tired but thought that was just how things are with young kids. By lunchtime every day I'd be ready for nap and lay down on the couch to sleep for an hour. After dinner time, when I had finished bathing and put them to bed, I was ready to collapse again. I thought this was normal until I spoke to my doctor and I realized that my fatigue wasn't normal. Nor was my hair loss, adult acne and problem losing weight. Turned out I had PCOS and never knew it.
Jennifer, Wisconsin.

I'm a working mom and was diagnosed with PCOS about 4 years ago, and am constantly exhausted. I'm in bed just after putting the kids to sleep at 7pm most nights. It's not great for my relationship needless to say. Anyway, I was reading recently that doctors sometimes diagnose women without really performing any proper tests, and that PCOS isn't always the correct diagnosis. I went to a new doctor recently and he checked my thyroid, and hey presto, turns out I've had an underactive thyroid all this time which wasn't being treated. He's ordered some more tests to see if I also have PCOS, but I mightn't have. I've started taking treatment for hypothyroidism and feel better already.
Siobhain, Boston.

I have PCOS and have always been exhausted, no matter what PCOS treatment I've been given. The sleepiness started at high school and never went away. I've fairly much resigned myself to needing a lot of sleep!
Cyndi, Dallas.

Related Questions
Looking at the causes: Why am I so tired all the time?
Could it be a virus? Do I have a cold or the flu?
Treatment options: Can PCOS be cured?

• Need more information? See: PCOS Guide
• Got another question? See: Womens Health Questions

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WOMENS HEALTH ADVICE: ABOUT QUESTIONS ON FEMALE HEALTH
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