You might have heard of PCOS or PCOD or might be experiencing it yourself. However, chances are that you are not aware of the difference between PCOS and PCOD. If you know somebody who has PCOD, their excessive facial hair growth is the only sign which visibly shows their hormonal disturbances. But there is more to this common health issue!
Even though the terms differ, they are often used interchangeably. There is a lot of misinformation and myths around PCOS and PCOD. Before getting into details, let’s see how your ovary functions.
Understanding your ovary
The ovaries are oval-shaped and located on either side of your uterus. They perform two major reproductive functions in your body. First, they produce eggs for fertilisation. Second, they create the reproductive hormones—oestrogen and progesterone.
Both hormones are crucial for your menstrual cycle. Furthermore, they are essential for the lining of your womb for pregnancy and implantation of the fertilized egg. But what if you experience hormonal irregularities? Well! This is what PCOS or PCOD is all about.
PCOD vs PCOS
In a normal menstrual cycle, your ovaries will release a mature egg, ready to undergo fertilisation every month. However, if you have PCOD, your ovaries will release immature or partially mature eggs. It eventually develops into cysts. Because of cyst formation (small sacs filled with liquids), your ovary grows and swells.
Generally, your ovaries release only a small amount of male hormone androgen. But, with PCOD, they produce an excess of this male hormone. And this hormonal imbalance often shows up as PCOD symptoms like-
- Male pattern hair loss
- Abdominal weight gain
- Irregular periods
- Excessive facial and body hair (hirsutism)
- Darkening of the skin
- Infertility in severe cases
Likewise, if you have PCOS, it leads to excess production of androgen hormone. PCOS symptoms have a lot in common with PCOD. However, this is an endocrine issue, where the androgen hormone disrupts the development of eggs. As a result, the egg turns into large cysts. Unlike PCOD, these cysts will not be released and continue to grow in your ovaries.
PCOD and PCOS differences and their impact on pregnancy
Although the symptoms of PCOD and PCOS are similar, polycystic ovary syndrome is more serious. This condition is rare and affects only 2.5% of women. Often, women who experience PCOS do not ovulate on time. It increases the difficulty of becoming pregnant. And if you do get pregnant, there is a risk of complications during pregnancy.
Even more severe cases lead to anovulation—ovaries stop releasing eggs. Since no ovulation takes place, your uterine line builds up each month. As a result, it increases the risk of developing endometrial cancer. Polycystic ovarian syndrome enhances your chances of heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure, too.
Generally, you can manage PCOD symptoms with lifestyle changes. All you have to do is follow a healthy diet, exercise, and lose weight. It may not even require any further medical treatment. Unlike PCOS, you will not face any threatening implications with PCOD.
However, both these conditions have a similar side effect of infertility. PCOS seriously affects your infertility and conception is more difficult due to hormone irregularities. But if you have PCOD, a successful pregnancy is possible with only minimal medical help as ovulation takes place.
There is no obvious reason why some women get affected by PCOS. However, some likely causative factors could lead to PCOS. If your body produces excess insulin, this increases the production of androgen hormone. Ultimately, it affects your ovulation process, making it difficult for you to develop the eggs.
Similarly, your ovaries may fail to maintain the balance of hormones. It generates excess androgen production and other PCOS symptoms like facial hair growth.
Research shows that women with PCOS have low-grade inflammation. As a result, the polycystic ovaries overproduce androgens. It eventually gives rise to blood vessels or heart problems. Also, polycystic ovary syndrome correlates with genetics.
How do you know if you have PCOS or PCOD?
If you develop any unwanted hair growth on your body or experience irregular periods, consult a gynaecologist to understand your condition. Often, your doctor will ask about your diet, drinking habits, and medical history. Also, you can have a pelvic examination done to check for any development of an abnormal mass. Blood tests can help to determine your lipid profiles and hormone levels.
Apart from these, you may undergo an ultrasound imaging test to detect the size and presence of cysts on your ovaries.
Your doctors typically treat PCOS with external birth control pills, among others. These pills mimic the action of oestrogen and progesterone to stabilize your menstrual cycle. Other skin treatments are available for acne and hirsutism.
While an on-time diagnosis of PCOD and PCOS is necessary, monitor your health regularly. If left untreated, polycystic ovary syndrome can lead to severe complications. As a part of the treatment for PCOD, maintain a healthy diet and weight, which helps balance your hormones.
Moreover, losing weight reduces your cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. Plus, when you exercise, you improve your ovulation and insulin levels.
Treat your body well!
Understanding the difference between PCOS and PCOD is crucial to treating your condition. But, is there a cure for PCOS?
The bad news is that there is no complete cure yet for PCOS. But the good news is that the treatment for PCOS involves lifestyle modification, regular check-ups, and monitoring your hormone levels. Similarly, the symptoms of PCOD can manifest in different ways, but you can manage them as well.
Despite the misinformation that exists about PCOS and PCOD differences, you need to educate yourself about your ovary and treat your body with kindness!