Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that primarily affects the ovaries. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that involves inflammation in multiple organs and body tissues. People with PCOS may be at increased risk of developing lupus and other autoimmune diseases.
This article explores the potential link between PCOS and lupus and provides tips on living with the two conditions. We also discuss some other diseases associated with PCOS and offer advice on when to contact a doctor.
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.
Below, we outline the link between PCOS and lupus.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a condition that involves an imbalance in the body’s reproductive hormones. People with PCOS have
According to the Office on Women’s Health (OWH), PCOS affects around
What is lupus?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues. It can cause widespread or “systemic” inflammation and pain.
Medical professionals do not know the exact cause of lupus, though genes and environmental factors likely play a role. According to the
The link between PCOS and lupus
Several studies have explored the connection between PCOS and lupus.
In a 2022 study, researchers noted that PCOS causes reduced or absent ovulation, which results in a low level of the hormone progesterone.
According to the researchers, this dip in progesterone overstimulates the immune system, causing it to produce more estrogen. This then produces proteins called autoantibodies, which mistakenly target and attack the individual’s organs and tissues.
These findings are similar to those of a
A 2023 study reviewed data from 2004–2020 to explore the connection between PCOS and autoimmune disorders. The researchers found that people with PCOS have a higher rate of systemic autoimmune disorders, including:
The researchers did not find any significant difference in rates of lupus when comparing people with and without PCOS. However, they note that further large-scale studies are necessary to support their findings.
There is currently no cure for PCOS or lupus, though treatments are available for both conditions. Treatments for PCOS generally focus on managing symptoms, while treatments for lupus primarily aim to help prevent flare-ups.
A person who has PCOS or lupus should talk with their healthcare professional about medications and therapies. They may also benefit from certain lifestyle changes and home-care tips.
Day-to-day management of PCOS symptoms
Some tips for managing symptoms of PCOS
- regular exercise
- eating a balanced, nutritious diet
- taking one or more of the following steps to address excessive hair growth, if this is a personal concern:
- using over-the-counter hair removal products or seeking treatments for hair removal
- taking medications to help slow hair growth
Day-to-day management of lupus symptoms
Some tips for managing lupus symptoms
- learning the signs of an oncoming flare-up
- taking steps to avoid triggers
- trying stress-management techniques
- limiting time in the sun
- getting enough rest and sleep
- building a support network to help out when needed
Both PCOS and lupus can cause weight gain and associated health risks.
If a person with either or both conditions would like to lose weight, they can try talking through their weight loss plans with a doctor, dietitian, or personal trainer. Joining a fitness support group may also help to boost a person’s motivation to lose weight.
Losing weight with PCOS
According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), females with PCOS who have overweight are at increased risk of developing additional PCOS symptoms and long-term health complications.
The NHS suggests that weight loss of 5% can significantly ease PCOS symptoms.
They suggest the following tips for maintaining a moderate weight:
- performing regular exercise
- eating a balanced, nutritious diet
- discussing personal weight goals with a doctor or dietitian
Losing weight with lupus
Doctors may prescribe steroid medications to manage lupus. These medications can lead to weight gain. According to the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA), obesity can have a greater effect on females with lupus.
The LFA suggests that people with lupus can try certain lifestyle changes to help maintain a moderate weight. They could try regularly performing low impact exercises, such as walking, swimming, or yoga. They could also eat balanced meals containing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
PCOS can increase a person’s risk of developing several other health conditions,
- type 2 diabetes, with more than 50% of people with PCOS developing diabetes or prediabetes before the age of 40 years old
- endometrial cancer, which has links with obesity, ovulation issues, diabetes, and insulin resistance
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- sleep apnea
A person should talk with a doctor if they develop symptoms of PCOS or lupus. The doctor will run diagnostic tests and recommend an appropriate treatment plan where necessary.
- irregular or absent periods, indicating a lack of ovulation
- difficulty conceiving
- signs of excess androgen production, such as:
- excess hair on the face and body
- thinning hair on the scalp
Lupus symptoms can differ from person to person and may come and go over time. Some
- muscle and joint pain
- skin rash
- mouth sores
- hair loss
- eye problems
- extreme or prolonged fatigue
The following are some questions frequently asked about PCOS and lupus.
Can PCOS cause lupus?
Some studies suggest that PCOS increases the risk of autoimmune diseases. However, additional large-scale studies are necessary to understand the connection between PCOS and lupus.
Does PCOS weaken the immune system?
Evidence suggests that low progesterone associated with PCOS can overstimulate the immune system.
Overstimulation can cause the immune system to create autoantibodies, which attack healthy cells in the body.
PCOS is a hormonal condition that primarily affects the ovaries. Some research suggests that the hormone imbalance that occurs with PCOS can overstimulate the immune system, leading to lupus or other autoimmune disorders.
Although there is no cure for PCOS or lupus, treatments are available to help manage these conditions and their symptoms. People may also benefit from certain lifestyle changes, especially those that relate to maintaining a moderate weight.
A person should contact their doctor if they develop symptoms of PCOS or lupus. The doctor will run diagnostic tests and recommend an appropriate treatment plan where necessary.