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PCOD vs PCOS: Differences, Symptoms, Causes & More

PCOD vs PCOS: Differences, Symptoms, Causes & More

In this post, we will go through the differences and similiarities between PCOD and PCOS, shedding light on their symptoms, causes, and potential treatment options.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD) are two terms often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to different conditions.

While both PCOS and PCOD are related to the ovaries and can cause hormonal imbalances, it is important to understand the distinctions between them.

By the end, you will have a clearer understanding of these conditions and be better equipped to differentiate between PCOD and PCOS. So, let’s dive in!

A chalkboard with the text "PCOS versus PCOD".

Introduction to PCOS and PCOD

I discovered my path to understanding hormonal imbalances early on through my academic journey to become a sonographer and while earning my B.S. of Science in Exercise Science at Towson University.

My personal battle with hormonal challenges began in my 20s, when I was diagnosed with PCOS, a condition that also runs in my family.

Through time spent studying and firsthand experience, I’ve gained insights into both polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD), two conditions often shrouded in confusion due to their similar symptoms.

By diving into the depths of each, I’ve learned to navigate the complexities of these disorders.

My goal here is to share knowledge that can help untangle the web of facts and facilitate better management and understanding of these conditions.

Key Takeaways:

  • Personal Connection: As someone diagnosed with PCOS and with a family history of the condition, I bring a personal perspective to the topic.
  • Hormonal Disorders Explained: The article will cover the basics of PCOS and PCOD, their symptoms, and key management strategies.
  • Empowering Through Knowledge: Understanding the differences and treatment options empowers those affected to manage their health proactively.
A chalkboard with the word Hormones written in chalk on it.

Understanding Hormonal Disorders

Hormonal disorders are disruptions within the body’s endocrine system that upset natural hormonal balance, often with noticeable impacts.

For women of reproductive age, such conditions can profoundly affect both physical and reproductive health.

Among these disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome and polycystic ovarian disease stand out as significant examples.

Both conditions share similarities, marked by hormonal imbalances, yet distinct in their characteristics and implications on health.

Welcoming you into my world, I often reflect on my days as an Exercise Science major at Towson University and later on, my days as a sonography student and ARDMS registered practicing Sonographer.

Here, I encountered the complexities of these disorders right before (and while) I faced my own diagnosis of PCOS in my 20s.

Understanding the depth of PCOS and PCOD became more than just academic; it turned personal, weaving into my family’s medical history.

With this post, I will peel back the layers of confusion and shine a light on the vital differences and treatments of polycystic ovarian syndrome and polycystic ovarian disorder, so help educate others who may be dealing with similar challenges.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal disorder affecting women of reproductive age.

This condition is characterized by a combination of symptoms that can vary from one individual to another.

One of the hallmarks is the presence of multiple cysts on the ovaries, which are actually immature eggs that never mature enough to initiate ovulation.

Women with PCOS often experience irregular menstrual cycles due to these ovulatory issues.

A graphic of a uterus and ovaries with a microscope over the polycystic ovary.

Underlying hormonal imbalances are central to PCOS.

Women with PCOS symptoms and this condition, typically have elevated levels of male sex hormones, known as androgens, which lead to symptoms like excess hair growth on the face and body, hair loss from the scalp, and acne.

Another key hormonal issue in PCOS is insulin resistance, where the body’s cells don’t respond effectively to insulin.

This can contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Other manifestations of PCOS may include pelvic pain, heavy bleeding during periods, or the absence of periods altogether.

Recognizing these symptoms is crucial because they signify a need for a thorough examination and appropriate management to mitigate the risk of long-term health complications.

Understanding PCOD

As I learned in my studies to become a sonographer and from my own experiences, Polycystic Ovarian Disease, commonly known as PCOD, often leaves a trail of confusion.

This condition involves the ovaries containing numerous immature or partially mature eggs, which eventually turn into cysts.

I’ve seen firsthand how it’s typically diagnosed through ultrasounds and by assessing symptoms that patients report, such as irregular menstrual cycles or sudden weight gain and other common symptoms of PCOD.

Those of us grappling with PCOD may encounter a spectrum of symptoms, mirroring the diversity of our complex bodies.

Many experience weight gain, an imbalance in male sex hormones leading to excess hair growth or hair loss, and metabolic disorders contributing to insulin resistance.

Mental distress can also accompany these physical changes, reinforcing the need for comprehensive care and understanding.

Even within my family, the stories of struggle and managing these symptoms underscore the pervasive nature of this hormonal disorder.

A graphic of a uterus and two ovaries, one larger than the other like you would see in PCOD.

Key Differences Between PCOS and PCOD

My experience and the stories echoing in my family tree have led me to deeply investigate the distinctions between Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD).

While these conditions bear similarity in name and symptomatology, they diverge significantly in their etiology and impact on reproductive health.

PCOS is fundamentally a hormonal imbalance involving higher levels of androgens, commonly referred to as male hormones, which can lead to metabolic issues such as insulin resistance.

This condition is often associated with an array of mature ovarian cysts that can disrupt normal ovulation and lead to irregular menstrual cycles.

In contrast, PCOD tends to be less severe, characterized by the presence of multiple immature eggs that eventually turn into cysts due to hormonal dysregulation.

Unlike PCOS, insulin resistance is not a defining characteristic of PCOD, placing less emphasis on metabolic concerns.

Despite these inherent differences, both conditions can contribute to symptoms like excess hair growth and weight gain, but the occurrence and severity can vary.

An understanding of these nuances is not merely academic; it influences the management path chosen, much like a forked road where each turn demands a tailored approach.

For me, it was crucial to appreciate these distinctions as they steered my personal journey and informed my familial conversations about our predisposition to such hormonal disorders.

Diagnosis and Medical History

Discerning whether a person has PCOS or PCOD starts with a comprehensive medical evaluation.

My own diagnosis was a journey involving multiple steps and careful examination.

It began with a detailed conversation about my family’s medical history, as PCOS and PCOD often run in families, and my personal health story.

Recognizing patterns, like the ones in my family, serves as a crucial pivot point in pinpointing these conditions.

Following the initial consultation, a physical exam was performed, including checks for signs like excessive hair growth, weight gain, and acne.

The process then moved on to blood tests which are indispensable.

These tests assess hormone levels to detect an imbalance, particularly looking for elevated male hormones which are a hallmark of PCOS, or insulin levels to identify insulin resistance.

Additionally, as someone keen on understanding the intricacies of the human body through my studies in exercise science, I appreciated how these tests help in distinguishing between PCOS and PCOD by revealing the different hormonal imbalances that define each condition.

Such meticulous diagnostic steps led to a conclusive understanding of my hormonal disorder.

Confirming the presence of multiple immature eggs or cysts in the ovaries through an ultrasound was the final confirmation needed.

This blend of medical testing and communication with your doctors is vital to ensure the best treatment approach, providing a clear path forward for managing these complex conditions.

A graphic of a uterus and ovaries with text that says PCOS vs PCOD.

Complications and Risks

My experience with PCOS, coupled with my family history of both PCOS and PCOD, has made me acutely aware of the serious complications these conditions can entail if left unmanaged. 

  • Endometrial Cancer: Among these, there’s an increased risk of endometrial cancer due to thickening of the uterus lining. This risk factor arises from infrequent or absent menstruation, which prevents the regular shedding of the endometrium. 
  • Heart Disease: Both PCOS and PCOD are intricately linked with insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes and consequently, elevates the risk for heart disease. 
  • Metabolic Syndrome: This cluster of conditions, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels, significantly heightens the chance of developing cardiovascular issues.

These are just a few of the potential repercussions of these syndromes, underscoring the necessity of early detection and proactive management.

By staying vigilant and maintaining a regular health check-up schedule, I aim to mitigate these risks and encourage others to do the same.

Lifestyle and Treatment Options

Living with PCOS or PCOD means understanding the key role a balanced lifestyle plays in managing your condition. 

A holistic approach, integrating a nutrient rich diet and regular exercise, can attenuate symptoms and improve overall health. 

For those like me, facing daily battles with these conditions, recognizing the power ofsimple everyday choices becomes crucial.

Diet: With PCOS or PCOD, selecting foods lower in carbohydrates and refined sugars can help to counter insulin resistance.

Aiming for high-fiber vegetables, lean proteins, and wholesome fats encourages a steady blood sugar level and can curb associated weight gain.

A graphic of healthy foods with barbells.

Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity boosts metabolism and supports weight loss, reducing the severity of PCOS and PCOD symptoms.

Activities like brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or any form of cardiovascular training can contribute enormously to hormone regulation and overall well-being.

Aside from lifestyle modifications, there are varied medical treatments to consider.

Oral contraceptives often regulate menstrual cycles and decrease levels of male hormones causing unwanted hair growth.

Metformin, often prescribed for Type 2 diabetes, has been effective in improving insulin resistance and may be an appropriate treatment if you are showing signs of this.

And of course, fertility treatments may assist those struggling to conceive due to irregular ovulation like my husband and I.

Always consult a healthcare professional for a tailored approach in selecting the best treatment for your unique circumstances.

Managing Irregular Menstrual Cycles

Dealing with irregular menstrual cycles, a common issue for those with PCOS or PCOD, calls for a nuanced approach to rebalance the body.

An initial strategy often recommended is the adoption of lifestyle modifications.

Engage in regular exercise, which can help regulate your cycle and increase insulin sensitivity, leading to more stable hormone levels.

Complement this by consuming a balanced, nutrient-rich diet, reducing intake of processed foods and sugars that might exacerbate insulin resistance and hormonal fluctuations.

In addition to these foundational practices, medical interventions may be necessary.

Your healthcare provider might prescribe birth control pills to induce regular menstruation cycles.

These contraceptives typically contain a combination of estrogen and progestin, which can help lower the production of male hormones and regulate ovulation.

For those who cannot take birth control pills or prefer not to, other medications like metformin, which improves insulin resistance, or progestin therapy may be suggested to manage menstrual irregularities.

If you aren’t into tons of medications (like I have become over the years), there are plenty of holistic things you can try to help you handle the irregular cycles and hormone imbalance you may be experiencing. 

We tried acupuncture and it seemed to help regulate some things.

I have also been very interested in using natural tinctures in helping balance hormone levels naturally and with the amount of side effects possible. 

I have found that using the following tinctures really helped me:

  • Nourish Her Naturally, an herbal tincture from Earthley Wellness that claims the following (seen here on their website), “This tincture includes herbs that are packed with vitamins and minerals to help balance hormones, support healthy energy levels, and promote overall wellness.”
  • Lunamore, another hormonal balancing tincture that can do so many things. According to their website (see more here) Lunamore promotes healthy blood sugar levels, promotes hormone balance, and helps to reduce cramps and cysts. If you suffer from painful and irregular periods, you may find this tincture to be helpful!”
  • Fertili-Boost, (that according to their website can offer you this: “Fertili-Boost is formulated with women who want to get pregnant in mind and made with herbs that support and help balance women’s hormones. If you are wanting to get pregnant, you need to prepare your body! That means supporting your hormones and nourishing your body to be able to support a baby. Fertili-Boost is designed to help you do that by using herbs that tone the uterus, balance hormones, promote fertility, and reduce inflammation.”

Various other products have really helped control my hormonal disturbances which helps improve my overall signs and symptoms.

I like to use Earthley Wellness products since they are:

  • 3rd party tested
  • ABSOLUTELY NO colors, flavors (natural or artificial), preservatives, added sugar, sodium benzoate, citric acid, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, top allergens (corn, soy, nuts, gluten, dairy, fish) or other junk!
  • You can learn more about Earthley, their products, their mission, and standards and more by visiting their website, checking out their FAQ section and more. 

Monitoring your cycles closely is integral, as well.

Keeping a menstrual diary or using an app can help you and your healthcare provider discern patterns or triggers that might be affecting your cycle, allowing for more personalized and effective management.

Remember, each body is unique, and what works for one person might differ for another.

Open dialogue with your doctor and a commitment to self-care are both pivotal in navigating the complexities of irregular menstrual cycles due to PCOS and PCOD.

Fertility Considerations

Dealing with PCOS or PCOD can present significant challenuges to fertility, a concern many women face with apprehension.

Both conditions can lead to irregular ovulation, making it difficult to predict fertile windows.

However, strategies exist to enhance the likelihood of conception.

Following a consistent regimen to regulate periods, under a healthcare provider’s guidance, can increase the predictability of ovulation cycles.

Many find success with fertility medications that stimulate ovulation, like clomiphene citrate or letrozole. For those with insulin resistance, a common feature in PCOS, metformin can help improve insulin sensitivity and potentially aid in conceiving.

Lifestyle modifications such as maintaining a balanced diet and optimal body weight can improve hormonal balance, thus boosting fertility.

Doctors may suggest tracking basal body temperature and using ovulation predictor kits for better timing of intercourse or insemination (however OPK’s don’t always work if you have hormonal issues like with PCOD/PCOS).

In some cases, assisted reproductive technologies, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), offer hope to couples facing the fertility obstacles imposed by PCOS and PCOD.

With patience and the right approach, many women with these conditions have successfully achieved pregnancy.

Mental and Emotional Support

Living with hormonal imbalances such as PCOS and PCOD can be as much a mental and emotional journey as it is physical.

Acknowledging the roller coaster of mood swings, anxiety, and sometimes depression that accompany these conditions is crucial.

I understand firsthand how overwhelming these feelings can be, having to navigate the ups and downs of symptoms that don’t just affect my body, but also my mind. It’s a challenge that goes beyond the physical manifestations of the diagnosis.

Finding support is key. Support groups, whether in-person or online, provide a space to share experiences and coping strategies. They remind us that we’re not alone on this journey.

Professional counseling can offer tailored methods to deal with stress and emotional turmoil. It’s empowering to learn practical techniques for managing anxiety, such as mindfulness meditation or deep-breathing exercises.

Regular physical activity, even gentle exercises like yoga or walking, can have profound effects on our mental well-being. These actions help in releasing endorphins, our body’s natural mood lifters.

Moreover, don’t underestimate the importance of open communication with loved ones.

Keeping them aware of what you’re going through fosters understanding and can build a support network in your day-to-day life.

Earthley

Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a step toward empowerment.

My journey taught me the importance of self-care and speaking up when things get tough.

You are not your symptoms, and with the right tools and support, you can navigate these challenges with resilience and grace.

Personal Journey and Family History

I received my PCOS diagnosis in my 20s, a revelation that was both personal and professional.

At the time, I was immersed in academics at Towson University, striving for a B.S. of Science in Exercise Science, and concurrently training as a sonographer.

My understanding of PCOS grew from textbooks to a lived reality. Diving deep into studies, my family’s medical history resonated; hormonal imbalances like PCOS and PCOD were not unfamiliar to us unfortunately.

Empowerment Through Education and Awareness

Education is a powerful tool that transforms uncertainty into empowerment.

Merely knowing I battle with PCOS doesn’t equip me for the daily intricacies the condition entails. It’s through learning every facet—differences, symptoms, management strategies—that we unveil the path forward.

An informed patient becomes an active participant in their health journey, making choices that foster well-being and balance.

My own experiences underscore the critical role knowledge plays.

When I first grappled with the diagnosis, a myriad questions swirled in my brain.

But armed with insights and research, I gradually shifted from confusion to clarity, insecurity to confidence.

I explored treatment potentials, dietary adjustments, and the significance of consistent physical activity. It’s vital you do the same.

A healthy lifestyle isn’t a mere suggestion; it’s a fundamental pillar for those confronting PCOS and PCOD. This isn’t about stringent diets or grueling workouts but cultivating habits that nourish and sustain.

A balanced plate, active daily routine, and mental health considerations construct a robust framework for managing these conditions.

I urge you not to let the abundance of information intimidate you.

Begin with fundamentals—recognize your body’s unique signals, comprehend how dietary choices influence your health, and appreciate the benefits of regular activity.

As you learn, you’ll perceive the value of maintaining a balanced life, not only biologically but emotionally as well.

My journey is testimony to the potency of awareness and self-care. I encourage you to embark on this enlightening exploration, forging a personalized path to wellness that acknowledges the complex web of PCOS and PCOD.

Stand empowered, equipped with knowledge, and ready to foster a life where these conditions neither define nor confine you.

Embodying these changes and options is imperative, but also immensely empowering.

As someone entrenched in the intricacies of these conditions, I advocate for proactive engagement with your health journey, bolstered by informed decisions and medical advice.

Karen

Saturday 28th of October 2017

Hello I was diagnosed with Pcos I tried alot of medication none worked until l decided to switch to alternative remedies for infertility issues An I came across an African herbal drug that helped me.... Now am a mother of three kids.... I will be happy to give more info on this...my email: karencoee@gmail.com

Factors that Impact Your Fertility - MyBump2Baby

Wednesday 12th of July 2017

[…] and keeping a pregnancy. She knew she had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (more about what PCOS is HERE). PCOS is hereditary so I knew I was at a higher risk of being diagnosed as well. Growing up, I […]

Ashley

Saturday 8th of July 2017

This is very informative, I am sure many women will appreciate your insight! A close friend suffers from PCOS and has managed it, but is is definitely a life long struggle.

onesharpmamablog@gmail.com

Sunday 9th of July 2017

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

onesharpmamablog@gmail.com

Sunday 25th of June 2017

Thanks for sharing a Jennifer. I feel like part of it has to be genetic in a way.