People with PCOS may experience a wide range of symptoms, such as fatigue. Conditions that co-occur with PCOS can also cause fatigue, such as sleep disorders and mental health issues.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects around
PCOS is not a direct cause of fatigue. However, many symptoms and conditions commonly associated with PCOS have links to fatigue.
This article explores the links between common PCOS symptoms and fatigue, conditions associated with PCOS that can cause fatigue, and possible treatment options.
The PCOS Awareness Association (PCOSAA) notes that one of the leading symptoms reported by people with PCOS is fatigue.
Similarly, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists notes that PCOS can lead to fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and snoring.
There are various physical causes of fatigue associated with PCOS. These include obesity, hormonal imbalance, and heavy periods.
There is a significant relationship between obesity and fatigue. Research indicates that obesity increases fatigue, sleep disturbances, and daytime sleepiness.
People with PCOS are more likely to experience obesity, which may make them more likely to experience obesity-related fatigue.
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) notes that 75% of people with PCOS will experience period problems, including heavy, abnormal bleeding.
Additionally, a 2021 study found that people who experience heavy periods are more likely to develop anemia. A common symptom of anemia is fatigue.
There are significant links between PCOS and depression and anxiety. One of the major symptoms of both depression and anxiety is fatigue.
One 2019 study reported that
Additionally, people with PCOS and a body mass index (BMI) over 30 have
A 2018 study found that people with PCOS reported notably higher rates of depression, anxiety, and stress than those without the condition.
These findings suggest that people with PCOS may be more likely to develop depression and anxiety, which may increase the risk that they will also experience fatigue related to these conditions.
There is a close link between sleep and fatigue. For example, long-term sleep deprivation may lead to fatigue. Sleeping too much may also cause fatigue.
People with PCOS may be more likely to experience sleep-related issues, which may increase the likelihood of developing fatigue.
A 2022 meta-analysis of research into PCOS and sleep disturbances suggests that people with the condition may experience more sleep disturbances, lower overall sleep quality, and more general sleepiness than those without PCOS.
Additionally, the data suggests OSA may contribute to insulin resistance, in which the body can create insulin but cannot use it effectively.
Various conditions often co-occur with PCOS. Many of these conditions can also cause fatigue.
Type 2 diabetes
There is a significant link between PCOS and type 2 diabetes. More than
Insulin resistance, a common PCOS symptom, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Fatigue is a common symptom of prediabetes and diabetes.
Subclinical hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid that does not meet the criteria for a hypothyroidism diagnosis.
Thyroid autoimmunity also
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism, goiter, and thyroiditis.
People with PCOS are 19% more likely to develop heart disease. A 2020 meta-analysis of studies on PCOS and heart disease also found that people with PCOS have an increased risk of heart attack and ischemic heart disease.
Fatigue is a common symptom of both heart disease and heart attack.
The most effective way to treat fatigue is to address the underlying cause of it with a healthcare professional.
A number of treatment options are available to help alleviate symptoms of PCOS, which may help ease a person’s fatigue.
- Metformin: Doctors prescribe this drug to help treat insulin resistance and prevent diabetes. At higher doses, metformin can also help with weight loss, which could help reduce obesity-related fatigue.
- Inositol: This is an insulin sensitizer, which means it affects the way the body responds to insulin.
Researchsuggests inositol may help regulate hormone levels and reduce menstrual cycle length.
- Statins: These prevent the production of cholesterol in the body. They can help treat PCOS by decreasing a person’s risk of heart disease.
- Oral contraceptives: These medications can help treat hormone imbalances associated with PCOS. They can also help reduce the occurrence of heavy, unpredictable periods.
- Regular exercise: Research suggests vigorous aerobic exercise for 120 minutes per week can improve insulin resistance and heart health. Examples include running, swimming laps, and fast cycling.
- Diet: A diet high in protein may help balance hormones, improve insulin resistance, and reduce appetite. Eating fewer carbohydrates may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and insulin sensitivity. Some researchers found the DASH diet to be the most effective at reducing insulin resistance.
- Mental health care: Depression and anxiety commonly occur alongside PCOS. A major symptom of both mental health conditions is fatigue. A person may wish to try mindfulness-based stress reduction, which
researchsuggests may help with glucose levels and stress in people who have overweight or obesity.
- Weight management:
Researchindicates that people who have overweight or obesity may experience a significant reduction in PCOS symptoms after losing around 5% of their total body weight.
It is important to talk with a healthcare professional before significantly changing any lifestyle habits.
PCOS does not cause fatigue directly. However, many common symptoms of PCOS can lead to fatigue. Conditions closely associated with PCOS can also cause fatigue.
A person who is experiencing unmanageable fatigue or who thinks they may have PCOS may wish to speak with a healthcare professional.