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Does PCOS Affect Only Overweight Women?

PCOS does not discriminate between shapes and sizes and can affect anyone. And trouble losing weight is one of main struggles in women with PCOS. So, what can you do to lose weight with PCOS?

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Posted on June 7, 2022 ·

Most conversations you hear about polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) probably revolve around irregular menstrual periods, including missed and/or heavy periods, infertility or acne.. But women with PCOS face many other problems too — and a big one is weight gain.

PCOS can Affect Anyone

Not every woman who has PCOS is obese — and that’s a fact.

PCOS sees no boundaries when it comes to your weight. While the association between obesity and the development of PCOS is strong, not every woman who has PCOS is obese. Remember, that obesity is only a ‘risk factor’ for PCOS and not a diagnostic criteria. So even if you are not overweight, there are other signs that can indicate PCOS such as high levels of male hormones, insulin resistance, acne and excessive hair growth. 

Having said that, for overweight women with PCOS, losing even 5%-10% of body weight can help reduce symptoms. So being overweight can put you at a risk but that does not mean that women who have healthy weight won’t develop PCOS. 

Can you be Lean and Still have PCOS?

Some women who fall under the healthy body mass index (BMI less than 25) can also have PCOS. This is called lean PCOS and often goes undiagnosed for years until they experience irregular periods or difficulty in conceiving.

Lean PCOS is not a different type of PCOS. Since PCOS is often associated with obesity, lean PCOS is a term used to convey that PCOS can affect women who have healthy weight as well.

So if you are showing signs of irregular periods, acne, excess hair growth or trouble conceiving despite maintaining a healthy weight, consult a doctor to get a formal diagnosis.

What are the Symptoms of Lean PCOS?

Although symptoms can vary among women and show up differently in different women, generally those with PCOS can experience the following:

  1. Irregular periods or no periods
  2. Hormonal acne that usually show up around jawline, chin and upper neck
  3. Excess facial and body hair
  4. Trouble conceiving 
  5. Weight gain or struggle with weight loss

Treatment for PCOS depends on the symptoms a person experiences. Even for lean PCOS it is important to maintain a healthy weight. You can do so by eating healthy, incorporating regular physical activity such as resistance training, managing stress and getting a good quality of sleep. 

If you think lean women with PCOS have it easy on their symptoms — its not true. Since obesity is so strongly associated with PCOS, lean PCOS often goes undiagnosed for years. It can be quite frustrating to have a normal weight and yet have PCOS. So if you are a lean woman with PCOS you still need to follow a healthy diet, incorporate regular physical activity and focus on managing stress and improving quality of sleep

Disclaimer: Content on Veera is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, or as a substitute for medical advice given by a physician

Verified by Dr. Iris Lee

Fellow in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Lee is a fellow in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Pennsylvania. She completed medical school and residency training at the University of Pennsylvania as well. Her work focuses primarily on PCOS, particularly the metabolic and mental health implications. Outside of work, she enjoys baking, reading, and spending time with her husband and two puppies.

BY Team Veera

Medically Reviewed



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