Polycystic Ovarian Disease and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome are often used interchangeably. Among the many gynaecological issues, these are two very common ones. A World Health Organization study to measure the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome statistics observed that PCOS affects 116 million women worldwide and around 1 million women in India.
Despite the wide prevalence of both Polycystic Ovarian Disorder and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, there is a misconception that they are actually the same.
What is Polycystic Ovarian Disorder (PCOD)?
Polycystic Ovarian Disorder occurs due to hormonal imbalances. It can also occur due to high levels of insulin (caused by junk food, stress, obesity) in the body. Both these factors disrupt the normal discharge of eggs from the ovaries, which takes place every month. As a result, the eggs accumulate and form fluid-filled cysts. Eventually, the ovaries become enlarged and painful.
What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome occurs when the pituitary gland produces excessive amounts of the luteinizing hormone. This hormone inhibits the function of progesterone and estrogen that regulate the menstrual cycle. This leads to anovulation (when the ovaries cannot release ovum). When this happens, ovaries produce excessive androgen. The high levels of androgen lead to cyst formation during the menstrual cycle.
High levels of insulin can also cause Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. This induces the ovaries to produce more testosterone (a male hormone), which negatively affects ovulation and leads to cyst formation.
The Confusion Between The Two
Both these disorders occur due to hormonal imbalances and abnormal insulin levels in the body. Moreover, certain signs and symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Polycystic Ovarian Disease are common. For example – irregular periods are common to both. Therefore, if you have irregular periods due to a hormonal imbalance then you might attribute it to PCOS. To avoid coming to the wrong conclusion, get a comprehensive health check to determine the exact cause.
Common Symptoms Of PCOD And PCOS
- Irregular periods: When impaired endocrine functions or the influx of the wrong hormones affects ovulation, the uterine wall does not slough off. This causes irregular periods. Some women affected with PCOD or PCOS experience fewer than nine periods in a year.
- Heavy bleeding: If a woman misses her periods, successive layers of uterine walls build up. When the period does happen at a later time, all of the accumulated layers are shed at once. This leads to heavy bleeding and painful menstrual cramps.
- Darkened skin: Raised levels of insulin cause the development of pigmented skin. The commonly affected areas are creases of the body like on the neck, under the breasts or in the groin region.
- Headaches: This symptom invariably affects all women with PCOD and PCOS. Hormonal imbalances in the body trigger headaches.
The Difference between PCOS and PCOD
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is actually a more severe form of Polycystic Ovarian Disorder. Because of this, there are certain symptoms that are exclusive to both. They are –
- PCOD causes thinning of hair. PCOS causes the growth of hair on the face.
- Polycystic Ovarian Disease causes obesity. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome only at its severest form can cause obesity.
You can tell the two apart based on the above symptoms. It is always a good idea to seek a medical expert’s opinion if you are confused.