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Demystifying PCOD

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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), not to be confused with PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian Disease), is a common hormonal disorder affecting people with ovaries. PCOS is characterized by a range of symptoms and can have various underlying causes. Here’s a demystification of PCOS, including its causes, symptoms, and diagnosis.
Demystifying PCOD
Hormonal Imbalance

Causes Of PCOS:

The exact cause of PCOS is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, hormonal and environmental factors. Key factors include:

  • Insulin Resistance: Many individuals with PCOS have insulin resistance, which can lead to elevated insulin levels. High insulin levels may contribute to increased androgen (male hormone) production by the ovaries.
  • Hormonal Imbalance: PCOS is associated with an imbalance in sex hormones, particularly increased levels of androgens (e.g. testosterone) and irregularities in the menstrual cycle.
  • Genetics: There is a genetic component and PCOS often runs in families.
  • Inflammation: Chronic low-grade inflammation may play a role in the development of PCOS.
Demystifying PCOD
Irregular Periods

Symptoms Of PCOS:

PCOS presents with a wide range of symptoms that can vary in severity. Common symptoms include:

  • Irregular Menstrual Periods: Irregular, infrequent or absent menstrual periods are a hallmark of PCOS.
  • Ovulation Issues: PCOS can lead to anovulation (lack of ovulation), making it challenging to conceive.
  • Hyperandrogenism: Elevated androgen levels can cause symptoms such as acne, hirsutism (excessive hair growth) and male-pattern baldness.
  • Polycystic Ovaries: On ultrasound, the ovaries may appear enlarged and contain multiple small cysts (follicles).
  • Weight Gain: Many individuals with PCOS experience weight gain or have difficulty losing weight. 
  • Skin Changes: Skin problems like acne and skin tags may occur.
  • Mood Disturbances: PCOS can be associated with mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
Demystifying PCOD
Polycystic ovary syndrome.

Diagnosis Of PCOS:

The diagnosis of PCOS is typically made based on a combination of clinical symptoms, physical examination and specific criteria. To diagnose PCOS, healthcare providers typically consider the following:

  • Menstrual History: Irregular periods or a lack of menstruation is a common indicator.
  • Physical Examination: Signs of hyperandrogenism, such as acne or excess hair growth, may be observed.
  • Blood Tests: Blood tests to measure hormone levels, including testosterone, LH (luteinizing hormone), FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and insulin, are performed.
  • Pelvic Ultrasound: An ultrasound of the pelvis can reveal the presence of polycystic ovaries. 
  • To receive a diagnosis of PCOS, other possible conditions with similar symptoms, such as thyroid disorders and hyperprolactinemia, should be ruled out.

    It’s important to note that PCOS is a complex condition and not all individuals will experience the same symptoms or severity. Early diagnosis and appropriate management are crucial as PCOS is associated with potential long-term health risks, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and fertility issues. Treatment is often tailored to address specific symptoms and may include lifestyle modifications, hormonal therapy, and other interventions as needed.

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