pcos and pcod: symptoms, causes, complications and diagnosis

PCOS and PCOD: Symptoms, Causes, Complications and Diagnosis

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PCOS is the most common disorder and the leading cause of infertility worldwide. According to the WHO, nearly 70% of the female population remains undiagnosed. While some women may determine the PCOS symptoms during the very first menstrual period, others may discover that they have PCOS when they are having fertility issues. 

What is polycystic ovary syndrome? 

PCOS is a syndrome that affects the ovaries and ovulation. A lack of ovulation impacts the levels of estrogens, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormones, and luteinizing hormones. Women with PCOS generally have higher-than-normal levels of male hormones.   

Differences between PCOS and PCOD:

PCOS and PCOD are both hormonal disorders that involve the ovaries and cause similar symptoms. However, there are some differences between the conditions, such as: 

  • PCOD is a more common hormonal disorder than PCOS. 
  • PCOS is more severe and causes more serious health complications than PCOD.
  • In PCOD, the ovaries produce partially mature eggs, and one can conceive with a good lifestyle and medications. PCOS is the severe form of PCOD, where the ovaries completely stop releasing eggs, leading to infertility.       

What are the symptoms of PCOS? 

The symptoms of PCOS, or PCOD, generally appear around the time of your first menstrual period. Some people learn that they have PCOS after having difficulties getting pregnant. The most common signs or symptoms of PCOS include: 

  • Irregular period: Having a few menstrual periods or irregular periods is the major sign of PCOS. Lack of ovulation inhibits the uterine lining from shedding every month. 
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding: Heavy menstrual bleeding may happen as the uterine lining builds up for a longer period of time. 
  • Weight gain: Many surveys have found that nearly 80% of women with PCOS are overweight. 
  • Excessive hair growth: Also known as hirsutism, more than 70% of women with PCOS suffer from excessive hair growth on the face and body, especially on the chest, back, and belly.      
  • Acne: Excessive male hormones in females can make the skin oily and cause breakouts, especially in the face, upper back, and chest. 
  • Male pattern baldness: The androgen hormone can contribute to male pattern baldness. 
  • Darkening of the skin: Dark patches on the skin, especially around the neck, groin, and under the breast, are common in women with PCOS. 
  • Headache: Hormonal changes may trigger headaches in some women.     

What causes polycystic ovarian syndrome? 

Doctors are still unaware of the exact cause of PCOS. However, they believe that certain factors may play a role in developing PCOS. The common causes include:    

  • Genes: Some studies have found that PCOS runs in families; certain genes might contribute to the condition. 
    • Insulin resistance: Researchers have found that nearly 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance. It means their body cells cannot make proper use of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that the pancreas makes to help the body use sugar from foods for energy. When the body fails to use insulin properly, the body demands more insulin. To compensate, the pancreas makes more insulin, and excessive insulin can trigger ovaries to produce more male hormones. 
    • Low-grade inflammation: White blood cells generate certain substances corresponding to infections or injuries, which is called low-grade inflammation. Studies have shown that women with PCOS suffer from a type of long-term, low-grade inflammation. Some studies have shown a link between excessive inflammation and high levels of androgen hormone.   

How can PCOS affect your body? 

Having higher-than-usual levels of male hormones can affect many aspects of your body. Some common complications that can arise include:    

  1. Infertility: 

PCOS is the leading cause of infertility. Normal ovulation is essential to getting pregnant. Women with this condition fail to ovulate regularly and do not release many eggs to get fertilized.  

  1. Metabolic syndrome: 

As mentioned before, approximately 80% of women with PCOS have obesity or are overweight. PCOS, accompanied by obesity, elevates your risk for: 

  • High blood pressure 
  • High blood sugar
  • High levels of low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol
  • Low levels of high-density lipoproteins or good cholesterol

These factors are together called metabolic syndrome, and they increase the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. 

  1. Endometrial cancer: 

Research has shown evidence that women with PCOS are five times more likely to develop endometrial cancer than people without PCOS. The uterine lining sheds during ovulation, and if one does not ovulate every month, the lining can build up. A thickened uterine lining can elevate your risk of having endometrial cancer.       

  1. Sleep apnea: 

Sleep apnea is usually common in people who are overweight and have PCOS. This condition causes a repeated pause in breathing during sleep, which disrupts sleep

  1. Depression: 

Depression among women with PCOS is very common. Hormonal changes, acne, and facial hair growth may negatively impact mental health.

How is PCOS diagnosed?  

Healthcare providers diagnose polycystic ovary syndrome if you have at least two of the following factors: 

  • Symptoms of high androgen levels
  • Irregular or absent menstrual cycle
  • Cysts in the ovaries

Your doctor will ask you whether you are having symptoms like acne, an irregular period, weight gain, or excessive facial and body hair growth. They might also do a pelvic exam to look for issues with the ovaries or other parts of the reproductive tract.   

Certain diagnostic tests, including the PCOD profile test, and other tests to check for insulin, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels are also needed in the diagnostic process of polycystic ovary syndrome. Your doctor may also recommend an ultrasound. You can easily find these diagnostic tests in thyrocare packages

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for PCOS and PCOD. You have to manage the condition through a healthy diet, exercise, and medications. Also, make sure to consult your doctor periodically to determine progress and get general health advice.

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