Hormones Boosts Prediabetes Risk

Sleep apnea and polycystic ovary syndrome may increase prediabetes risk in women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Your body is complex. One problematic organ can affect an entirely different organ or system. If you let one disease run its course, you may be faced with another health problem, then another.

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), sleep apnea, or both conditions may be more likely to develop prediabetes - a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

"Get tested for diabetes if you have sleep apnea or PCOS."

In many cases, prediabetes develops into type 2 diabetes, which puts people at risk for health problems like heart disease and kidney disease. As such, it is important to know who is at risk so that diabetes can be prevented.

In their recent study, David Ehrmann, MD, of the University of Chicago and senior author, and colleagues found that women with PCOS and sleep apnea are at least three times more likely to have prediabetes, compared to women without PCOS.

"In the last few years, sleep apnea has been found to be a frequent comorbidity [coexisting condition] with PCOS, and our study shows that women who have both conditions are at greatest risk of metabolic disturbances such as prediabetes," says Dr. Ehrmann.

PCOS is a hormonal disorder in women. It causes the ovaries to make excessive male hormones.

PCOS is the primary cause of female infertility and can lead to obesity, acne, hair thinning and excess body hair.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person repeatedly stops and starts breathing throughout the night. It occurs when muscles in the throat relax.

According to Dr. Ehrmann, "Patients who have one or both of these conditions should be screened early for type 2 diabetes and should be monitored regularly.

The study's results show that 44 percent of women with PCOS developed prediabetes. In contrast, only 22 percent of women without PCOS developed prediabetes.

The researchers also found that women with PCOS had poorer blood sugar control when their sleep apnea was more severe.

Furthermore, blood sugar levels increased as women's levels of the hormone progesterone decreased.

Women with PCOS often have low progesterone levels and Dr. Ehrmann says that low progesterone may play a role in the obstructive sleep apnea.

For their research, Dr. Ehrmann and colleagues studied 171 obese women, 121 of whom had PCOS. Sleep apnea was more common in women with PCOS than in women without PCOS.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health Specialized Centers of Research on Sex Differences Research and the Blum-Kovler Foundation.

The results were presented at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston, Texas. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 26, 2012
Last Updated:
November 27, 2012