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What Causes PCOS? Complete Guide!

By June 6, 2024PCOS4 min read
what causes pcos

Understanding what causes PCOS is crucial for effective management. This condition is primarily driven by hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, and genetic factors, affecting many women globally.

Most of the symptoms of PCOS are caused by higher-than-normal levels of certain hormones, called androgens.

Hormones are substances produced by the ovaries that regulate bodily activities. One of the hormones that the ovaries make is estrogen—sometimes called the “female hormone” because women’s bodies make more of it than men’s bodies do. 

The ovaries also produce androgens, which are known as “male hormones” because males produce more of them than women. Men and women need certain amounts of both hormones for good health.

Hormone imbalance occurs in women with PCOS; they may have lower-than-normal amounts of estrogen and higher-than-normal levels of androgens. High levels of androgens can:

  • Cause ovulation to occur irregularly by interfering with the brain impulses that typically trigger ovulation.
  • Cause the small, fluid-filled sacs within the ovaries, where eggs grow and mature, to stop developing and subsequently enlarge.
  • Produce other symptoms of PCOS, including excess hair growth and acne.

What Causes PCOS!

  • Resistance to insulin
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Genetics
  • Weight 
what causes pcos

Resistance to insulin

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to control the amount of sugar in the blood. It helps to move glucose from blood into cells, where it’s broken down to produce energy.

Insulin resistance refers to the body’s tissues’ inability to respond positively to insulin. As a result, the body must create more insulin to make up for it.

Excessive testosterone production from the ovaries due to high insulin levels disrupts the development of follicles, the ovarian sacs that house developing eggs, and stops regular ovulation.

Insulin resistance can result in weight gain, which exacerbates PCOS symptoms because excess fat prompts the body to produce even more insulin.

Hormone imbalance

Many women with PCOS are discovered to have an imbalance in specific hormones, such as:

Increased level of testosterone – a hormone typically considered male, though all women normally produce it in small amounts.

Increased levels of luteinising hormone (LH) – which stimulates ovulation but can adversely affect the ovaries if LH hormone is too high.

Reduced levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) – a blood protein that binds to testosterone, diminishing its impact.

Increased prolactin levels, a hormone that encourages the breast glands to make milk during pregnancy (only in some PCOS-affected women).


PCOS may sometimes run in families. You are more likely to have PCOS if you have any relatives who do, including your mother, sister, or aunt.

Although particular genes linked to PCOS have not yet been discovered, this shows that the disorder may have a hereditary component.


Women with PCOS may experience weight gain and could face an elevated risk of maintaining an unhealthy weight. 

Managing weight can be challenging for those with PCOS. 

Research suggests that hormones involved in controlling appetite and hunger aren’t regulated properly in some women with PCOS.

PCOS can affect women of all weight ranges. But a heavier weight can increase the hormones responsible for PCOS symptoms. Weight loss can normalize hormone production and lead to improvements in PCOS symptoms.

Find out more about how food and exercise may help reduce the symptoms of PCOS.