Gastric Sleeve Surgery and PCOS - What You Need To Know

Gastric Sleeve Surgery and PCOS - What You Need To Know

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary or Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder that often causes infertility issues. It is caused by an imbalance of your reproductive hormones and issues with your metabolism. PCOS is characterized by the presence of multiple cysts in your ovaries. Women with PCOS typically have too much of the male hormone androgen.

This hormone imbalance causes your eggs to either not develop properly, or you do not produce eggs at all. Because of this, women with PCOS usually have irregular or nonexistent periods, which leads to difficulty or inability to become pregnant. Women with PCOS experience numerous symptoms due to hormone imbalances.

pregnant lady with baby shoes
Women with PCOS usually have irregular or nonexistent periods, which leads to difficulty or inability to become pregnant.

Women with PCOS also have Issues with Insulin Production

Insulin is a hormone that is produced by your pancreas. It helps turn the carbohydrates and sugar that you consume into energy that your cells use, and stores it for later use. Women with PCOS produce too little insulin, or the insulin that they produce does not work correctly. Higher levels of insulin are needed to be able to break down sugar, this is called insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance can actually cause your ovaries to produce more male hormones, which then leads to the symptoms of PCOS. Elevated insulin levels in women with insulin resistance can also lead to negative health problems such as diabetes. Women with PCOS often have increased levels of insulin.

person testing blood glucose
Elevated insulin levels in women with insulin resistance can also lead to negative health problems such as diabetes.

Symptoms of PCOS Include:

  • Irregular or absent periods
  • Masculine-like hair growth
  • Hair loss or thinning hair
  • Skin tag growth
  • Skin breakouts
  • Weight gain
  • Skin darkening along the neck, groin, and under breasts
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Increased levels of the male hormone (androgen)

What is the Relationship Between PCOS and Obesity?

There is a relationship between PCOS and obesity, however, it is not completely clear why or which causes which. Women often develop symptoms of PCOS after they begin getting their periods. They experience weight gain and difficulty losing weight due to the PCOS symptoms, which leads to obesity.

Some women develop PCOS later in life, after they have had excessive weight gain and are considered obese. So it is not entirely clear whether PCOS is a symptom or cause of obesity. It is clear, however, that the two are often related.

How is PCOS Treated?

If you have PCOS, treatment will be based on managing the symptoms you are experiencing. Medications that help regulate your hormones, such as birth control pills may be prescribed.

The most important factor in treating PCOS is making healthy lifestyle changes. Women who lose just a little bit of weight have benefited from an improvement in the symptoms of PCOS.

What if I Have Tried to Lose Weight but Just Can’t?

For some women, losing weight through lifestyle change is difficult or impossible, even a little bit of weight loss is not possible or very difficult for various reasons. Despite diet changes and attempts to exercise, the weight just does not come off. So what are the options for you if you have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight through lifestyle change?

Is Weight Loss Surgery a Treatment Option for PCOS?

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic studied the results of numerous past weight-loss surgeries that were performed on obese women who were at reproductive age. They found that women with PCOS who had weight loss surgery experienced a significant decrease in their PCOS symptoms. In fact, over half of the women who underwent weight-loss surgery began to have regular periods following the procedure. The researchers determined that weight loss surgery can be an option for the treatment of PCOS in obese women who have tried other methods of weight loss without success.

So Can Gastric Sleeve Surgery Help if I Have PCOS?

First, you need to know that there are many different types of weight loss surgery, including gastric sleeve surgery. It is important to discuss with your doctor which surgical procedure is best for you. It is also important to choose a surgeon who is familiar with treating women with PCOS since they will decide on the best procedure for you and your unique health issues.

What Exactly is Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

Gastric sleeve surgery is just one type of weight loss surgery. Gastric sleeve surgery or sleeve gastrectomy is a bariatric weight loss surgery that restricts the amount of food you can eat. It does this by surgically changing the shape of your stomach into a small, narrow sleeve. Most people who have this procedure lose a large amount of weight, due to the decreased amount of calories that they are able to take in.

Weight Loss and PCOS

Gastric sleeve surgery is an option for weight loss, usually after other less invasive methods have failed. There are numerous health benefits to the weight loss that normally comes with gastric sleeve surgery. These health benefits include the decrease or often complete resolution of health issues associated with obesity, including PCOS. Because the best way to manage PCOS symptoms is to lose weight, considering surgery as an option for weight loss is common.

lady happy after weight loss
There are numerous health benefits to the weight loss that normally comes with gastric sleeve surgery.

PCOS and Gastric Sleeve Success Stories

While gastric sleeve surgery may not be the right option for everyone, it is helpful to know that there are many success stories. These stories support gastric sleeve surgery as an option to treat PCOS and its symptoms. This surgery may be an option for you if you have been unable to lose weight by conventional methods like diet change and exercise.

Gastric sleeve surgery has successfully treated symptoms of PCOS in women. In one case study, a woman who was morbidly obese and who had PCOS underwent gastric sleeve surgery. She was followed closely after the procedure, and by the end of the first year, had already begun having regular periods. Within three years, her insulin levels and her ovaries were functioning normally.

So Is Gastric Sleeve Surgery Right for You?

If you are a woman with PCOS who is struggling with weight loss and infertility problems, bariatric surgery may seem like the obvious answer. It is important to understand that while gastric sleeve surgery may lead to a decrease or complete disappearance of your PCOS symptoms, there are still many risks associated with the procedure.

If you are considering weight loss surgery, It is important to discuss all of your options with your doctor. He or she will help you to make a well-informed decision on whether to have gastric sleeve surgery and if it is how to manage your PCOS. Gastric sleeve surgery may resolve infertility issues related to PCOS.

While gastric sleeve surgery is not considered a cure for PCOS, current research does show that it is a good option for treating its symptoms. If you are struggling with infertility and other symptoms related to PCOS and obesity, gastric sleeve surgery could be the best option for you.

References:

https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/polycystic-ovary-syndrome

https://www.obesityaction.org/community/article-library/polycystic-ovarian-syndrome-pcos-and-obesity/

https://youngwomenshealth.org/2014/02/25/metformin/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353443

https://consultqd.clevelandclinic.org/bariatric-surgery-may-help-women-polycystic-ovarian-syndrome-overcome-infertility/

http://www.bariatricnews.net/?q=node/2182

Caitlin Roat, RN, BSN

Author

Caitlin has 10 years of experience in healthcare settings, including the hospital, community, and telephonic care. She graduated from SUNY Cortland (BA, English) and SUNY Brockport (BS, Nursing).

Gintas Antanavicius, MD, FACS, FASMBS

Medical Reviewer

Dr. G is a co-founder of BariBuilder. A US-based expert surgeon with over 10 years of bariatric experience, he regularly publishes research in medical journals like SOARD, Obesity Surgery, etc.