During the last Christmas holidays, a student was diagnosed with PCOD. When she came back to college and shared her ordeal with her faculties, most of the common reactions were along like- “PCOD? Isn’t it called PCOS?” Or: “Wait, precisely what happens in that? Is it only about irregular periods?” Or, more ignorantly: “Oh, you only need to lose some weight and be on a diet. Then everything will be fine.”
The ignorance, regardless of whether being willful or not, was harsh indeed. At a non-medical academic level, not many comprehensible resources have been compiled regarding this matter. Also, they aren’t widely available. The very least that should be done by a non-licensed, non-medical professional is to gather credible information from a few authentic sources for a very basic and brief guide.
Do you menstruate a lot, or have had enough conversations with people who menstruate? Then you’ve possibly heard of PCOD or PCOS at some point in your life. Based on the setting, your pre-existing knowledge about the two may differ in correctness- myths and misinformation are very common when it comes to these very common health issues. Irrespective of their differences, the two abbreviations are often used interchangeably. Before we differentiate them, let’s know their concepts, their causation, their treatments, etc.
PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian Disease) is primarily caused due to a combination of hormonal imbalance and genetic tendencies. In a normal menstrual cycle, the two ovaries will alternately discharge mature, ready-to-be-fertilized eggs every month. But for someone with PCOD, the ovaries will often discharge either immature or just partially-mature eggs, developing into cysts, which are little sacs filled with liquid.
This also causes swelling of the ovaries leading to their enlargement. Usually, the ovaries discharge a limited number of androgens or male hormones during the cycle. However, in this scenario, the ovaries will begin production of excess androgens, leading to symptoms such as abdominal weight gain, male pattern hair loss, irregular periods, and in a few severe cases, even infertility.
There isn’t any set ‘cure’ as such for PCOD. However, one of the best ways to manage it is by changing your lifestyle after consulting either your gynecologist, an endocrinologist, or a dietician. Exercising and maintaining a healthy diet, low in sugars and carbohydrates, and high in protein and fiber are the most beneficial ways to control your PCOD. This also reduces some weight. It is very helpful, as even a 5% weight reduction makes the treatment easier.
Depending on the case, a person may be provided with medication to balance their hormones. A few instances even require Second-line therapy, such as ovarian drilling, laparoscopic surgery, aromatase inhibitors, etc. But this isn’t very common. People may consult other doctors as well to treat some symptoms, particularly PCOD-induced acne, and hair loss can normally be solved by skin treatments. Though in maximum instances, after minimal aid with conception, one can expect a smooth pregnancy, nearly 20% of cases may necessitate fertility drugs or other fertility-enhancing treatments if they wish to carry a baby.
Though it sounds quite similar, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is marginally different from PCOD. If in PCOD, the ovaries begin discharging immature eggs causing hormonal imbalances and swollen ovaries, among other symptoms, then in PCOS, endocrine issues cause the ovaries to process surplus androgens, making eggs prone to evolving cysts. However, these cysts won’t be discharged like in PCOD. Instead, they accumulate in the ovaries themselves.
PCOS has multiple symptoms common with PCOD, such as infertility, weight gain, acne, irregular periods, etc. Additionally, PCOS induces metabolic syndrome, increasing the risks of strokes, cardiac disease, and diabetes. It may also lead to sleep apnea, affecting the body’s ability to breathe while you’re asleep. This means unexpected pauses in breathing or inability to breathe while asleep. It may lead to an extremely disturbed sleep cycle. As no ovulation is occurring, the uterine lining accumulates each month, increasing the chances of endometrial cancer.
Generally, treatment of PCOS includes consuming oral contraceptives, or birth control pills to contain estrogen or female hormone and progestin, which mimics progesterone, another female hormone, and stabilizes the menstrual cycle to deal with a few other symptoms. Extra medication may be availed to minimize the possibilities of endometrial cancer and diabetes, as well as acne and skin problems. Weight loss and a healthier lifestyle can facilitate the treatment process in this scenario.
At the very outset, PCOS is generally considered a more serious condition. It can often be controlled just by implementing a few informed lifestyle changes, and may not even mandate further medical treatment at all. But PCOS, being a disorder of the endocrine system, has more threatening implications and its treatment almost always requires an external supply of hormones.
PCOD is also far more common among women. Nearly, one-third of all menstruating women worldwide have PCOD. However, PCOS isn’t so common. Though it isn’t rare either.
Last but not least, both hormonal disorders have infertility as a shared side effect, though not to the same extent. As mentioned earlier, if one is suffering from PCOD, a few additional precautions, and minimal medical intervention may almost ensure, pregnancy. But, with PCOS due to too many hormonal irregularities, conceiving is more challenging in this case.
Conclusion Both PCOS and PCOD have a sense of social stigma and misinformation surrounding them. They’re very common disorders and not taboo.
Lack of conversation is the primary cause of a lack of education. However, we can always make an effort to educate ourselves.