Menopause results from a gradual fall in female hormone levels, but polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can stem from high levels of so-called male hormones. Symptoms of PCOS may continue into menopause.
Though people often call androgens male hormones, they are also
Both PCOS and menopause involve changes in sex hormones, but the processes are different.
Doctors can no longer diagnose PCOS after menopause, as the key features usually disappear. However, some research suggests that underlying changes persist into the later years. People with PCOS may have a
This article explores the links between the two conditions, the key differences, and the treatments available.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
A person enters menopause
PCOS appears during the reproductive years, but there is evidence that some features are present before puberty, such as a higher number of follicles and metabolic changes. PCOS continues throughout a person’s life. In a person with PCOS, menopause may occur an average of 2–4 years later than in those without PCOS.
During menopause, a person may experience symptoms of both PCOS and menopause. Some of these symptoms also overlap.
Hormones play different roles in menopause and PCOS.
Hormones in PCOS
The symptoms of PCOS result partly from an imbalance in sex hormones. Experts do not know precisely why this happens, but it seems that genetic factors
People with PCOS may produce a
Hormones in menopause
Menopause results from a change in the balance of progesterone and estrogen over time. The changes start around
In time, ovulation and menstruation stop, and a person can no longer become pregnant without medical assistance.
As menopause approaches, periods become
As such, menopause does not cure PCOS, but the experience and treatment of PCOS may change.
When PCOS first appears, often in adolescence, it
Menopause and PCOS have some overlapping symptoms.
Menopause usually occurs around the age of 52 years. Doctors define menopause as starting
Around menopause, a person may experience:
- hot flashes
- irregular menstruation, which eventually stops completely
- mood changes
- vaginal dryness and a fall in libido or sex drive
A doctor will diagnose PCOS according to the Rotterdam criteria. This means they will diagnose PCOS if a person has
- irregular periods or no menstruation
- higher testosterone levels than usual, which may lead to acne, excess facial and body hair, and thinning scalp hair
- ovarian cysts
A doctor can no longer diagnose PCOS after menopause because the key features disappear.
The following may occur with both PCOS and menopause:
- irregular or missed periods
- difficulty becoming pregnant
- mood changes
- difficulty sleeping
- thinning hair on the head
- excess hair growth on the face or body
- weight gain
Symptoms of PCOS and menopause often overlap, but some symptoms are more typical of one than the other.
Symptoms more likely to occur with PCOS
Symptoms that are more typical of menopause are hot flashes and night sweats. Some
Symptoms of PCOS can begin during the
Anyone who thinks they may have PCOS should seek medical advice. Currently, treatment cannot cure PCOS, but it can help manage symptoms.
As a person with PCOS approaches menopause, they should speak with their doctor about what to expect and whether they recommend any changes to treatment.
People should also ask for medical advice if they have concerns about the effects of menopause. A range of hormonal and other treatments
Lifestyle remedies can also help manage some aspects of both PCOS and menopause.
Weight gain can occur with both PCOS and menopause, increasing the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other conditions.
Ways of managing weight
- eating a varied and balanced diet that focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables
- avoiding fried foods and foods with added sugars
- exercising regularly
- speaking with a doctor or nutritionist about a weight management plan, if appropriate
Getting enough sleep
Both PCOS and perimenopause can affect sleep.
To improve sleep, a person can
- going to bed and getting up at regular times
- keeping electronic devices outside the bedroom
- having the room as quiet and dark as possible, with a comfortable temperature
- avoiding eating and drinking soon before bed
- being active during the day
Managing unwanted hair
For milder cases, people can try home methods, such as waxing, plucking, or hair removal cream. However, it is best to check first with a dermatologist, as some creams can have adverse effects.
Laser hair removal and electrolysis can have longer-term effects than waxing or cream, but they can be expensive. Always see a qualified and experienced practitioner for these treatments. There may be risks, and they can affect people in different ways.
Here are some answers to questions people often ask about PCOS and menopause.
What happens to PCOS during menopause?
The hormonal imbalance that causes PCOS does not change over time, and PCOS
Does PCOS make menopause worse?
PCOS and menopause share a range of symptoms, such as a risk of weight gain and an increase in facial and body hair. However,
Does PCOS get worse with age?
The risk of metabolic syndrome, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes,
PCOS is a hormonal condition that begins during the reproductive years. Menopause marks the end of the reproductive years.
PCOS and menopause share some features, but they are not the same, and menopause does not balance out the hormones that cause PCOS.
When a person has PCOS, their periods may become more regular toward menopause, and they may continue to have a higher risk of complications such as metabolic syndrome. However, some evidence suggests that lean people with PCOS have a
People with PCOS often need medical treatment throughout their life to manage symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. During menopause, people can seek treatment to help manage symptoms, such as hot flashes.