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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

PCOS and PCOD: Science Behind the Most Common Hormonal Disorder in Women

As per WHO, PCOS affects between 8% and 13% of women of reproductive age

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Sadaf Hasan
Sadaf Hasan
Aspiring reporter covering trending topics

 INDIA: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD) are two related conditions in women that affect the ovaries and can cause a range of hormonal imbalances and other health issues. PCOS and PCOD, however, are not the same thing and have different diagnostic criteria, but they share similar symptoms.

As per the World Health Organization (WHO), PCOS affects between 8% and 13% of women of reproductive age, while PCOD is estimated to affect between 5% and 10% of women. However, these figures may be underreported, as many women with these conditions may not seek medical treatment or be aware of their diagnosis.

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There are some differences between the two that are worth noting. In this article, we will delve into the science behind PCOD and PCOS and explain the differences between the two.

PCOD and PCOS: What are they?

PCOD is a condition in which a woman’s ovaries become enlarged and contain multiple small cysts. These cysts are not harmful and do not cause any symptoms, but they can affect a woman’s fertility by interfering with the release of eggs from the ovaries. PCOD is primarily diagnosed through ultrasound imaging and is often associated with irregular periods, weight gain, and acne.

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PCOS, on the other hand, is a more complex condition that involves hormonal imbalances in addition to the presence of cysts on the ovaries. Women with PCOS often have higher levels of androgens (male hormones) than normal, which can cause a variety of symptoms, including irregular periods, acne, and excess hair growth. PCOS is also associated with insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

The science behind PCOD and PCOS

The exact cause of PCOD and PCOS is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some of the key factors that may contribute to the development of PCOD and PCOS include:

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Hormonal Imbalances

Both PCOD and PCOS are characterised by hormonal imbalances that can disrupt normal ovarian function. In particular, women with these conditions tend to have high levels of luteinising hormone (LH) and androgens such as testosterone. This can lead to the formation of multiple small follicles on the ovaries that can prevent ovulation and cause irregular periods.

Insulin Resistance

Insulin is a hormone that aids the body in controlling blood sugar levels. However, in some women with PCOD and PCOS, the body develops insulin resistance, making insulin less effective at regulating blood sugar levels. This can cause the body to create more insulin, which can cause the body to make more androgens, worsening hormonal imbalances.

Genetic Factors

There is also evidence to suggest that genetic factors may play a role in the development of PCOD and PCOS. Studies have identified several genes that may be involved in regulating ovarian function and hormone levels, and mutations in these genes may increase the risk of developing these conditions.

PCOD vs PCOS: What’s the difference?

As we mentioned earlier, PCOD and PCOS are often used interchangeably, but there are some differences between the two. The main difference is that PCOS is a more comprehensive term that encompasses a wider range of symptoms and hormonal imbalances, while PCOD specifically refers to the presence of multiple small follicles on the ovaries.

In general, women with PCOS tend to have more severe symptoms and are at a higher risk of developing health complications such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and endometrial cancer. However, it is worth noting that the exact symptoms and severity of PCOD and PCOS can vary greatly from person to person.


The symptoms of PCOD can vary from woman to woman and may include:

Irregular periods: Women with PCOD may have infrequent periods, heavy periods, or no periods at all.

Cysts on the ovaries: Women with PCOD may have multiple cysts on their ovaries, which can be detected by an ultrasound.

Infertility: PCOD can cause ovulation difficulties, making it harder for women to conceive.

Acne: High levels of androgen hormones can cause acne and other skin problems.

Weight gain: Women with PCOD may find it harder to lose weight and may gain weight more easily.

Excess hair growth: High levels of androgen hormones can cause excess hair growth on the face, chest, and back.

Mood changes: Women with PCOD may experience mood swings, depression, and anxiety.

Differences in diagnosis

The diagnosis of PCOS and PCOD is often confused, as the symptoms can be similar, and both conditions can lead to irregular periods and difficulty getting pregnant. 

However, the key difference between the two is the hormonal imbalance associated with PCOS, which can lead to excess androgens and insulin resistance. In contrast, PCOD is primarily characterised by the presence of multiple ovarian cysts, which may or may not be associated with hormonal imbalances.

To diagnose PCOS, doctors typically look for at least two of the following criteria:

  • Irregular periods or no periods at all
  • High levels of androgens (such as testosterone) in the blood
  • Polycystic ovaries on ultrasound

To diagnose PCOD, doctors may look for the presence of multiple cysts on the ovaries, as well as other factors such as irregular periods, elevated androgens, and insulin resistance. However, because PCOD is not always associated with hormonal imbalances, it can be more difficult to diagnose.

Treatment options for PCOD and PCOS

Although there is no cure for PCOD or PCOS, there are numerous treatment options that can help control symptoms and lower the risk of health consequences. These include:

Lifestyle changes

Losing weight, eating a balanced diet, and exercising consistently can help to increase insulin sensitivity and minimise the severity of PCOD and PCOS symptoms.


Several medications can be used to help regulate menstrual cycles and reduce androgen levels in women with PCOD and PCOS. These include birth control pills, metformin, and anti-androgen medications.


In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove cysts or scar tissue from the ovaries. This can help to improve fertility and reduce symptoms.

It is important to note that while both PCOD and PCOS are associated with infertility, they are not the same thing. PCOD is primarily a reproductive disorder, while PCOS is a metabolic disorder that can affect many different parts of the body.

PCOD is a condition that is characterised by the presence of cysts on the ovaries, while PCOS is a syndrome that is characterised by multiple symptoms, of which PCOD is one. The exact cause of both conditions is not fully understood, but they are believed to be linked to an imbalance of hormones in the body. 

While neither ailment has a cure, there are treatments available to assist in controlling symptoms and improving overall health. If you feel you have PCOD or PCOS, it is essential to consult with your doctor to acquire an accurate diagnosis and suitable treatment. 

Also Read: 5 Nutrition-rich Foods For a Happy and Healthy Heart 


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