The Link Between PCOS and Bipolar Disorder

by Lauren Taylor from In The Cloud Copy

Polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS is a disorder in which women of reproductive age experience irregular menstrual cycles and/or excess androgen (a male hormone). This can eventually lead to the development of small collections of fluid or follicles on the ovaries and the failure to regularly ovulate or release eggs. The exact cause of this condition is not known but diagnosing the disease early coupled with treatment can help to reduce the long-term complications that one may experience as a result of PCOS. This condition affects approximately 5% of women and girls in the United States and is the number one cause of women experiencing a disturbance in menstruation.

Symptoms of PCOS can vary from patient to patient, but a diagnosis is officially made when the patient experiences two of the following: irregular periods, excess androgen, or polycystic ovaries. The causes of PCOS is not known at this time, but it is believed that several factors play a role in the development of the disease including excess insulin, low-grade inflammation, excess androgen, or a hereditary component. Complications of the disease may include infertility, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, metabolic syndrome, sleep apnea, abnormal uterine bleeding, endometrial cancer, miscarriage or premature birth, and gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. It is important to see your healthcare provider if you think you are experiencing PCOS so that a diagnosis may be made and treatment initiated as early as possible.

PCOS and Mental Health Disorders

Recent research into PCOS has revealed a possible link between the condition and bipolar disease. A study was done via a large health insurance database on 7,175 women with PCOS and 28,697 women who do not experience PCOS. The study placed the women into one of three groups. Group one was women treated with the medication metformin, group two received hormone therapy, and group three did not receive any treatment. What they found in a follow up after eight years was that the women with a diagnosis of PCOS had a greater risk of development of bipolar disease compared to the women in the other two groups. After concluding this study, it was recommended that medical personnel screen women for bipolar disorder in the case of emotional instability.

Further studies showed that women with PCOS who were treated with the medication metformin had a greatly reduced risk of developing bipolar disorder compared to women who did not take metformin. Women treated with hormone therapy for their PCOS also showed a decreased risk compared to women who did not receive any treatment for their PCOS, but the reduction was not as significant as that seen with metformin.

The exact link between PCOS and bipolar disorder or other mood disorders is not fully understood. Researchers do point out that the systemic inflammation that is often associated with PCOS may make women affected by PCOS more susceptible to development of bipolar disorder. Further, it is noted that metformin, while primarily used for correction of glucose resistance in PCOS, also has anti-inflammatory effects. Researchers think that this anti-inflammatory effect may be a contributing factor in the reduction of risk of bipolar disorder.

While much research is still needed to not only understand PCOS itself, but its link to bipolar disorder, this is a great stepping stone in researching and understanding the disease.

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