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    Insulin Resistance & PCOS: A Comprehensive Guide to Causes and Management


    Insulin Resistance & PCOS: A Comprehensive Guide to Causes and Management

    Updated on 21 December 2023

    Medically Reviewed by

    Dr. Shruti Tanwar

    C-section & gynae problems - MBBS| MS (OBS & Gynae)

    View Profile

    Insulin resistance & PCOS are closely linked, and the relationship between them plays a significant role in the development and management of PCOS. In this article, we will understand what is insulin resistance PCOS, the link between the two, how to identify this condition, its causes and effective management strategies.

    What is the Link Between PCOS and Insulin Resistance?

    Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body's cells become less responsive to the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels by allowing glucose to enter the cells for energy production.

    When the cells become resistant to insulin, the body compensates by producing more insulin. This excess insulin can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones in the body, leading to hormonal imbalances and the development of PCOS.

    Research has shown that up to 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can worsen the symptoms of PCOS, such as irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain, and difficulty in losing weight.

    You may also like: PCOS and Thyroid: Understanding the Complex Relationship and Finding Solutions

    Signs of Insulin Resistance PCOS

    Recognizing PCOS insulin resistance symptoms is important for early detection and treatment. Here are seven common signs that may indicate the presence of insulin resistance in women with PCOS:

    1. Irregular Menstrual Cycles

    Women with insulin resistance PCOS often experience irregular periods or may even skip periods altogether. This is because elevated insulin levels can interfere with the normal hormonal fluctuations that regulate the menstrual cycle.

    2. Weight Gain

    Insulin resistance can make it difficult for the body to break down and utilize glucose for energy. As a result, the excess glucose is stored as fat, leading to weight gain, particularly around the abdomen.

    3. Excessive Hair Growth

    Insulin resistance can cause an increase in the production of androgens, which are male hormones. This can result in excessive hair growth on the face, chest, and other areas of the body.

    4. Acne

    Elevated insulin levels can stimulate the production of oil in the skin, leading to clogged pores and the development of acne.

    5. Dark Patches on the Skin

    Insulin resistance can cause dark patches to develop on the skin, particularly in areas such as the neck, armpits, and groin.

    6. Fatigue

    The constant fluctuations in blood sugar levels associated with insulin resistance can lead to feelings of fatigue and low energy levels.

    7. Difficulty Losing Weight

    Women with insulin resistance PCOS often struggle to lose weight despite efforts to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. This is because insulin resistance can slow down the metabolism and make it harder for the body to burn calories efficiently.

    You may also like: PCOS Weight Loss in 1 Month: How to Shed Pounds Fast

    Causes of Insulin Resistance PCOS

    Understanding the causes can provide valuable insights into the management and treatment of the condition. Here are five common causes:

    1. Genetics

    There is evidence to suggest that PCOS and insulin resistance may have a genetic component. If a woman has a family history of insulin resistance or PCOS, her risk of developing the condition may be higher.

    2. Obesity

    Excess weight, particularly around the abdomen, can increase the risk of insulin resistance and PCOS. The adipose tissue releases chemicals that can interfere with insulin signaling, leading to insulin resistance.

    3. Poor Diet

    A diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugars, and processed foods can contribute to insulin resistance. These foods cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels, leading to increased insulin production and eventually insulin resistance.

    4. Sedentary Lifestyle

    Lack of physical activity can contribute to insulin resistance and PCOS. Exercise helps to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose utilization, reducing the risk of insulin resistance.

    5. Hormonal Imbalances

    Hormonal imbalances, such as elevated levels of testosterone and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), can contribute to insulin resistance in women with PCOS.

    Insulin Resistance PCOS Treatment Options

    Managing PCOS and insulin resistance requires a comprehensive approach that addresses both the underlying insulin resistance and the symptoms associated with PCOS. Here are five treatment options that can be effective:

    1. Lifestyle Modifications

    Making lifestyle changes such as following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight can help improve insulin sensitivity and manage PCOS symptoms.

    2. Medication

    Certain medications, such as metformin, can help improve insulin sensitivity and regulate menstrual cycles in women with insulin resistance PCOS.

    3. Hormonal Therapy

    Hormonal therapy, including the use of birth control pills, can help regulate menstrual cycles and reduce symptoms associated with PCOS.

    4. Nutritional Supplements

    Certain supplements, such as myo-inositol and omega-3 fatty acids, have shown promise in improving insulin sensitivity and reducing PCOS symptoms.

    5. Insulin Sensitizing Agents

    Medications such as thiazolidinediones (TZDs) and metformin can help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance in women with PCOS.


    1. What are some common PCOS insulin resistance symptoms?

    These include irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain, excessive hair growth, acne, dark patches on the skin, fatigue, and difficulty losing weight. It is important to note that not all women with PCOS will have insulin resistance, but it is a common feature of the condition.

    2. How to manage PCOS and insulin resistance naturally?

    While medical interventions are often necessary to manage PCOS & insulin resistance, natural approaches like consuming a balanced diet, exercising regularly, managing stress, getting adequate sleep and managing weight can be beneficial.

    Final Thoughts

    Insulin resistance PCOS is a complex condition that requires a comprehensive approach to management and treatment. Understanding the link between PCOS and insulin resistance is crucial for early detection and effective intervention. By recognizing the signs of insulin resistance, addressing the underlying causes, and implementing appropriate treatment options, women with PCOS can manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. It is important to work closely with a healthcare professional to develop an individualized treatment plan that suits your specific needs.


    1. Rojas J, Chávez M, Olivar L, Rojas M, Morillo J, Mejías J, Calvo M, Bermúdez V. (2014). Polycystic ovary syndrome, insulin resistance, and obesity: navigating the pathophysiologic labyrinth. Int J Reprod Med.

    2. Purwar A, Nagpure S. (2022). Insulin Resistance in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Cureus.

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    Medically Reviewed by

    Dr. Shruti Tanwar

    C-section & gynae problems - MBBS| MS (OBS & Gynae)

    View Profile

    Written by

    Anandita Sharma

    Drawing on more than a decade of expertise in administration, Anandita Sharma currently serves as a content operations e

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