Diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are common medical conditions. The two are linked, and problems with insulin can characterize both conditions.

Approximately females of childbearing age have PCOS, and around of people in the United States have diabetes.

People with PCOS are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Keep reading for more information about how these conditions relate. We also describe the treatments for both diabetes and PCOS.

a woman looking out the window and wondering if PCOS is associated with diabetes
A person with PCOS should consider having regular diabetes screenings.

PCOS is a common condition that involves small cysts forming on the ovaries. These cysts can impair ovulation and affect menstruation and fertility. PCOS is related to an imbalance of hormones, including the hormone insulin.

Diabetes affects the body's ability to create or use insulin. Type 1 diabetes results from an absence of this hormone, while type 2 develops due to insulin resistance. The body may produce less insulin, and the hormone may be less effective. Lifestyle factors can influence the development of type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1, and it usually occurs in people who are overweight or have obesity.

Research suggests that people with PCOS have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A person with PCOS is more likely to have insulin resistance, a risk factor for this type of diabetes.

A range of evidence points to the link between PCOS and diabetes:

  • According to the , around half of those with PCOS develop either diabetes or prediabetes before the age of 40.
  • suggests that people with PCOS are four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than similar peers without the disorder.
  • of around 8,000 females found that those with PCOS had a much higher risk of developing gestational or type 2 diabetes. The researchers note that this finding was independent of body mass.
  • According to a , various other studies have found a link between type 2 diabetes and PCOS.

The medical community is uncertain of the exact cause of PCOS. However, doctors believe that high levels of insulin can play a role. High levels of this hormone can also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Having excess body weight is a common risk factor for both PCOS and type 2 diabetes.

The majority of people who develop this type of diabetes are overweight or have obesity.

However, some of the studies above suggest that people with PCOS have a strong risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes regardless of their weight, diet, and level of exercise.

Women with PCOS also have an increased risk of gestational diabetes, which develops during pregnancy.

Overall, women with PCOS should have regular diabetes screenings.

It can help to be aware of the warning symptoms of diabetes, such as:

woman contemplating vegetables
A healthful diet may help treat both diabetes and PCOS.

To help treat both diabetes and PCOS, doctors usually recommend eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.

A healthful diet consists of:

People with PCOS and diabetes should limit their intake of foods such as:

  • processed meats
  • trans fats
  • simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, white flour, white bread, white pasta, and white rice
  • fast food and other processed foods
  • low fat foods that substitute sugar for fat

People with diabetes or prediabetes and PCOS also benefit from getting more exercise. An increase in physical activity can help a person lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. It can also help the body process and use blood sugar, or blood glucose.

As the body starts to processes more blood glucose, it may also produce enough insulin to meet a person's needs. As the body regulates blood glucose levels naturally, a person with diabetes may be able to take less medication.

Treatments for type 2 diabetes can include medication that helps the body's insulin work more effectively and lower levels of blood glucose. A doctor may also recommend insulin injections.

Treatment for PCOS typically involves using birth control pills. These can help regulate the menstrual cycle and hormone levels, reducing PCOS symptoms.

Metformin is a common treatment for type 2 diabetes. It may also help treat PCOS symptoms because it reduces insulin resistance.