Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)is also called as Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD). PCOS is extremely common with 1 in 8 women between the age of 14 and 44 years suffering from the disease. As symptoms of PCOS are mild, it may go undetected in many patients and the actual prevalence could be even higher.
In Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, there are multiple ovarian cysts on the ultrasound that causes high levels of male hormones on the laboratory tests. High levels of male hormones cause excessive facial growth of hair, male pattern hair loss and acne. Although, many patients with PCOS have mild symptoms, some patients have complications such as infertility, diabetes and menstrual irregularities.
Similar to PCOD, hypothyroidism is also extremely common and 1 in 20 patients may have subclinical (undiagnosed) hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is caused when the production of thyroid hormone by gland is less than the needs of the body. Hashimoto’s Disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism and is caused by our own antibodies attacking the thyroid gland.
Similar to PCOD, hypothyroidism is also characterized by mild and non-specific symptoms like heavy menstrual periods, weight gain, hair loss, among others. Although, most patients will have mild symptoms, hypothyroidism can also lead to heart attacks and coma.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Hypothyroidism: Are They Related?
Although, hypothyroidism and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome are two separate diseases, there is a significant overlap of symptoms.For example, unexplained weight gain, anovulation (ovarian cycle without ovulation) and irregular periods are key symptoms in both disorders. There are many patients who suffer form both the diseases and it is possible that one of them can increase the likelihood of developing the other disease. For example, almost half of the women diagnosed with PCOS have signs of hypothyroidism on ultrasound scan.
Common mechanism: There are multiple reasons why both hypothyroidism and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome exist together. For example, certain bad genes can make some women vulnerable to develop both Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and hypothyroidism.Second, Vitamin D possesses immune protective benefits. Therefore, women who have Vitamin D deficiency are at much higher risk of developing both PCOS and hypothyroidism.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome causes hypothyroidism: It is also possible that PCOS leads to hypothyroidism. This could be due to the fact that high estrogen levels in patients with PCOS can stimulate the immune system and can increase the risk of developing Hashimoto’s disease.
Hypothyroidism causes Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: Thyroid is the key metabolic hormone. From a number of experimental studies, scientists have concluded that thyroid receptors are also present on the reproductive tissues (primarily uterus). Therefore any impairment or fluctuation in the blood levels of thyroid hormones is bound to affect the functioning of reproductive system.
Hypothyroidism and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome are common diseases and coexist with each other. Both the diseases initially have mild symptoms and can remain undiagnosed for a long time. Thus, women who have PCOS should get investigated for hypothyroidism and vice versa patients who have hypothyroidism should get checked for PCOS. This is important because together both conditions can increase the risk of complications (such as infertility). Moreover, treatment options also vary if both conditions coexist. For example, Clomiphene Citrate not a preferred choice for infertility management in such women due to high risk of drug resistance.
Sameer Ather MD, PhD is a Cardiologist based out of Birmingham, Alabama and is also the co-founder and CEO of websitewww.xpertdox.com, which is designed to help patients suffering from rare or serious diseases. His current research focus is to identify heart failure patients who do not benefit from beta-blocker.