PCOD and PCOS: Causes, Symptoms, Differences and Treatment

August 21st, 2023 | 2:52 pm

PCOD or PCOS is a common medical condition that affects the reproductive organs in females, particularly the ovaries. The ovaries are responsible for producing hormones (oestrogen, progesterone, and even androgens), eggs (female gametes), and indirectly controlling the menstrual cycle. This condition may cause symptoms such as irregular periods, excessive acne and hair growth, and infertility issues, among other problems. 

Individuals with PCOD/PCOS are at a higher risk of certain health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure compared to those without the condition. Treatments for PCOD/PCOS involve managing symptoms to regulate hormonal balance in the body.

What is PCOD?

PCOD, or polycystic ovary disease, is a condition in which the ovaries of affected females produce partially or completely immature eggs over a period of time. This eventually manifests in the form of cysts in the ovaries, leading to the enlargement of the ovaries and further causing the release of more androgens (male hormones).

The oversecretion of androgens causes several problems in menstruation, exhibiting symptoms that include:

  • Irregularities in the menstrual cycle
  • Hair loss
  • Abnormal weight gain
  • Infertility

The treatment of PCOD involves the modification of lifestyle through dietary changes and weight management practices.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a condition characterised by hormonal imbalance resulting from the excessive secretion of androgen hormones by the ovaries. It leads to similar symptoms as those of PCOD, such as irregularities in the menstrual cycle, acne, excessive hair loss, and obesity, along with other symptoms like:

  • Abnormal facial hair growth, along with excessive hair growth on the chest, arms, and abdomen.
  • Darkening of the skin in skin folds, especially in the neck, armpits, groin, and under the breasts.
  • Acne on the back and chest, apart from the face.
  • Skin tags, often found in the armpits and neck.
  • Infertility linked to irregular ovulation.

PCOS can be present in an individual without any symptoms or with very mild symptoms, often leading females to remain undiagnosed until they attempt to become pregnant or experience unexplained weight gain. Living with PCOS without management can increase the risk of various conditions in the long term, including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Treatment for PCOS may involve medication or even surgery in severe cases.

Common Symptoms of PCOD and PCOS

PCOD or PCOS may occur at any time after puberty, but symptoms may not be visible or as severe, not requiring medical diagnosis. Thus, the range of symptoms experienced by females may not be the same for everyone.

The most common signs and symptoms experienced by females with PCOD/PCOS may include the following:

  • Irregularities in periods (delay or early arrival – oligomenorrhea)
  • Skipped or absence of periods (amenorrhea)
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia)
  • Acne on the face, chest, and back
  • Excessive hair growth on the body
  • Hair loss or thinning of hair on the scalp
  • Excessive weight gain and difficulty in losing or maintaining weight
  • Darkening of the skin on the neck, groin, armpits, and under the breasts

Infertility or difficulty conceiving is one of the most prominent symptoms of PCOD/PCOS, observed by females who are trying to get pregnant.

Causes of PCOD or PCOS 

The exact cause of PCOS is not known, but there are several significant factors that may increase the likelihood of having PCOS. These factors may include one or more of the following:

  1. Genetics: Women with PCOS show a certain genetic correlation that puts them at a higher risk of developing PCOS.
  2. Excess androgen production: A high quantity of androgen production and secretion by the ovaries can lead to an irregular menstrual cycle, along with other symptoms like abnormal acne and hair growth.
  3. Insulin resistance: Excessive insulin in the blood due to improper insulin synthesis by the body can lead to the stimulation of the ovaries, causing them to produce and secrete excessive androgen hormones. An increased amount of androgens can lead to PCOS, along with various symptoms of PCOS.
  4. Chronic low-grade inflammation: Females with chronic low-grade inflammation are at a higher risk of developing PCOD/PCOS, which in turn can lead to cardiovascular problems.

Complications of PCOD/PCOS

Having PCOS may increase the risk of health complications related to various conditions, including miscarriage during pregnancy. People with PCOS may also be predisposed to other gestational complications, such as:

  • Preeclampsia
  • Gestational diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Premature birth

Furthermore, PCOS may also heighten the chances of developing other physical as well as mental health conditions and complications, which encompass:

  • Type 2 diabetes (diabetes mellitus)
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal uterine bleeding
  • Heart diseases
  • Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Depression

Diagnosis of PCOD and PCOS

Females with PCOD/PCOS may often disregard the symptoms of this condition as normal hormonal changes, especially if the symptoms are mild. They might visit the doctor to manage specific, severe symptoms or when experiencing issues related to getting pregnant or menstruation.

Based on physical symptoms such as the presence of skin tags, acne, excessive facial hair, and other factors, the treating gynaecologist may start by taking a history of the symptoms, lifestyle choices, habits, associated medical history, as well as the family history of PCOS incidence. They may recommend certain tests, which could include the following:

  • Blood tests to check hormone levels.
  • Measurement of weight.
  • Imaging tests like pelvic ultrasound to identify abnormalities in the uterine lining and ovaries.
  • Pelvic examination to detect the presence of masses or any abnormalities in the pelvic region.

Additionally, the gynaecologist might suggest certain additional diagnostic tests to check for any complications, which could involve the following:

  • Screening for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
  • Monitoring blood sugar levels, along with assessing glucose tolerance, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
  • Counselling for diagnosing anxiety and depression.

Treatment of PCOD and PCOS 

Treatment for PCOD/PCOS may focus on managing individual problems depending on symptoms such as irregular periods, weight gain, acne, excessive hair growth, and infertility, among others. Treatment usually begins with lifestyle changes, including diet and weight management. A nutritious and balanced diet can positively affect insulin levels in the body. Losing about 5-10% of body weight can also have a positive impact, improving cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

The gynaecologist may recommend specific medical treatments to manage individual symptoms, which may include:

  • Medication to treat hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance in order to regulate the menstrual cycle.
  • Skin treatments for acne and skin pigmentation.
  • Reduction of excessive body hair growth.
  • Infertility treatment using fertility medications and drugs.
  • Induction of ovulation through medications or injections.
  • Certain medications that may help counteract the effects of androgens.
  • Laparoscopic destruction of androgen-producing tissues in the ovaries when other forms of treatment fail.

The best approach to treating PCOD/PCOS may involve maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI), following the recommended medications from the gynaecologist, and prioritising overall health.

Prevention and Management of PCOD and PCOS 

PCOD/PCOS may not be preventable, but it can be managed after diagnosis by taking care of body weight through regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet.

At Giggles Hospital, we are dedicated to providing world-class diagnostic and clinical services for gynaecological conditions, with the primary goal of patient comfort and cure in mind. Our team of highly qualified gynaecologists takes immense care in providing the most accurate evaluation of PCOD/PCOS conditions, as well as devising methods for appropriate treatment with the utmost clinical acumen. Book your appointment today.