What are PCOS and PCOD? How are They Different?

Ujaas Team

What is PCOS?

PCOS (or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a metabolic disorder, wherein women are affected by a hormonal imbalance during their reproductive years. Because of an increase in the levels of male hormones and insulin resistance, women may skip a period, experience irregular ovulation (making it difficult to get pregnant), witness abnormal growth of hair on the body and face, and be at risk of heart disease and diabetes in the long run.

PCOS is quite a serious medical condition, and it needs timely medical attention or even surgical treatment.

Several women have PCOS, but they are unaware of it. Symptoms Include:

  • Irregular or skipped periods
  • Excess facial hair
  • Male pattern baldness and hair fall from scalp
  • Acne

Causes of PCOS

The precise cause of PCOS is not yet known. However, the risk factors include:

  • Excessive production of insulin:
  • Excessively high levels of insulin in the body may increase the production of androgen (which is predominantly a male hormone), causing difficulty in ovulation.

  • Excessive production of androgen:
  • The ovaries produce an abnormally high level of androgen, which can lead to acne and hirsutism (growth of hair on the face and body).

  • Low-grade inflammation:
  • According to one study, women with PCOS have low-grade inflammation that results in increased production of androgen, which can eventually lead to problems with the heart or blood vessels.

  • Heredity:
  • Women with PCOS demonstrate a genetic correlation.

Now, let us shift our attention to the PCOD problem.

What is the PCOD Problem?

PCOD Problem

PCOD means polycystic ovarian disease. It is important to know the PCOS and PCOD difference.

PCOD is usually caused by a combination of genetic tendencies and hormonal imbalances. During a standard menstrual cycle, the ovaries will alternately release mature and ready-to-be-fertilised ova each month. However, in those with PCOD, the ovaries will release immature or partially mature ova, which can lead to the development of cysts (which are tiny sacs filled with liquid).

This also leads to swelling and enlargement of the ovaries. Typically, the ovaries release a small amount of androgen during one’s menstrual cycle. However, when it comes to PCOD, the ovaries will produce an excessive amount of androgen, causing PCOD symptoms such as male-pattern hair loss, irregular periods, abdominal weight gain, and in some cases, infertility. There is no definitive “cure” when it comes to overcoming the symptoms of PCOD problems in females. Now, you know what PCOD means.

Ujaas, a menstrual health and menstrual hygiene initiative by Aditya Birla Education Trust, aims to dispel the darkness surrounding menstruation through awareness campaigns conducted in schools and other outreach programmes.

PCOD Problem Treatment

One of the most effective ways to manage your PCOD problem is making lifestyle changes, after a thorough consultation with your gynaecologist, endocrinologist, and dietitian. Regular exercise and physical activity as well as adhering to a healthy diet are the most efficacious ways to negate PCOD symptoms. Such a modification will also result in weight loss, which is extremely helpful because even a 5% loss of weight eases PCOD problem treatment considerably.

Based on the severity of the condition, some women may need to be put on medications to help in balancing their hormone levels. Some cases may even need second-line therapy, such as aromatase inhibitors, ovarian drilling, or laparoscopic surgery.

PCOS-induced acne or hair loss can usually be treated through skin treatments. In addition, in most cases after minimal help with conception, one can surely expect a safe pregnancy.

Around 20% of the total cases may need fertility drugs or other treatments if they decide to give birth.

PCOS and PCOD Difference

Although they sound similar, PCOS is a little different from PCOD.

In PCOD, the ovaries begin releasing immature eggs that eventually lead to hormonal imbalances and swollen ovaries. In contrast, in PCOS, endocrine problems cause the ovaries to produce excessive androgens, which result in ova turning into cysts. However, these cysts will not be released as is in the case of PCOD. Instead, they build up within the ovaries themselves.

Both PCOS and PCOD have a wide range of common symptoms: weight gain, acne, infertility, and irregular periods, among others.

PCOS further induces metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. It may also lead to sleep apnoea, which affects the ability of the body to breathe during sleep, which means a sudden pause in breathing or inability to breathe while asleep, thus leading to a disturbed sleep cycle.

Because no ovulation is occurring, the uterine lining gradually builds up every month, thereby increasing the risks of endometrial cancer.

Other Significant Differences

PCOS is typically considered a far more serious condition in comparison with PCOD. The latter can be efficiently managed by making certain lifestyle modifications and may not require any medical intervention. However, with PCOS, there is a disorder in the endocrine system, which means that the implications are more threatening. In addition, when it comes to tackling symptoms of PCOS, there arises the need to intake external hormones.

In addition, PCOD is a more common occurrence in comparison with PCOS, with nearly one-third of all menstruating women across the world experiencing PCOD. According to a study that was conducted in Maharashtra and Southern India, around 9.13% of menstruating women in these regions have PCOS, whereas 22.5% have PCOD.

Lastly, both these hormonal disorders have infertility as a common side effect, though the extent may vary.

The Bottomline

Regardless of whether it is PCOS or PCOD, both these conditions have a sense of social stigma surrounding them, especially in India. Though they are extremely common conditions, they are treated with a sense of shame by keeping them under wraps, as are all things that are related to periods. Lack of meaningful conversation leads to a lack of education, and even basic knowledge regarding menstruation is not known to most people. That said, through a collective effort this problem can be successfully tackled.