Understanding the difference between PCOS and PCOD

by Dr. Pranjal on July 10, 2023 , 7 min read


Talking about periods has always been considered a taboo in India. This has made it rather difficult for people to understand various problems and disorders associated with their reproductive health. One of the most commonly occurring hormonal disorders among women is PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian Disease) and PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). 


“According to surveys, PCOD affects 10% of the women globally while PCOS affects 0.2% to 2% of the global female population.” 


Despite the fact that most women are affected by these medical conditions, most people are unaware of them. This is primarily due to a lack of people openly discussing their problems.


Most women brush away any problem related to menstruation, fertility, etc. But, what is more dangerous is that many of them tend to self-diagnose. Having PCOS and PCOD has a negative impact on pregnancy and the female reproductive system. 


Women who miss their period or have a problematic menstrual cycle will find it difficult to maintain their overall well-being and will find it difficult to conceive. Pointing out the root cause of the disorder is quite difficult as this is a hormonal issue that can be caused due to a single or multiple reasons. 


What is PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian Disease)?

PCOD is a medical condition that causes improper ovulation where premature eggs are accumulated in the ovaries which later, are seen to be developing into cysts. The ovaries become enlarged and start to produce male hormones called androgens in an excessive amount. This in turn results in infertility and creates problems in the menstrual cycle. However, PCOD can be addressed by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and eating healthy food products.


Being mostly a result of hormonal disturbance in the body, PCOD is a condition with the following symptoms: 


  1. Irregular Menstrual Cycle: It is one of the most prominent signs of having this disorder. In this case, women suffering from PCOD will experience irregular menstruation and period cycles. For example, a client complained that she got her period 5 months after her cycle adding that her period flow was rather less. 



  1. Excessive Growth In Body and Facial Hair: Since the ovaries carry multiple premature eggs, they tend to enlarge and begin to produce male hormone called androgen in excess. This results in an increased and unusual growth of hair on the face, stomach, back, hands, etc. 



  1. Acne Problems: Of course we all have that one occasional pimple or sometimes an oily and tanned face after a long day outside. But, with PCOD, women are more prone to getting acne that tends to occur mostly on the side of the jaw and cheeks. This is primarily due to the fact that the production of male hormones in the ovaries causes an excess of oil production on the skin, resulting in the accumulation of dust and other pollutants.  


  1. Weight Gain/Weight Loss: The happiness we get by losing weight by avoiding the daily dose of sweets and carbs is quite the accomplishment. However, people with PCOD find it rather very difficult to lose weight. It varies from person to person. Some find it very difficult to gain weight while others find it nearly impossible to reduce. This is mainly the hormonal imbalance and also a phenomenon called ‘insulin resistance’ where there is an increase in blood sugar level and accumulates in the blood cells. 


What Is PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)?

PCOS is considered to be pretty much a chronic ailment. A syndrome basically refers to a number of disorders. PCOS is a result of hormonal disturbance in the endocrine system in the body. The endocrine system is basically an intricate system of glands that regulate and monitor the hormones produced in the body. It is responsible for body metabolism and reproductive health. The system monitors hormones such as Oestrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone, Androgen, Insulin, Adrenaline, etc. 


Although the root reason is not yet clear, any disturbance in the endocrine system plays a pivotal role in causing PCOS. Most of the symptoms of PCOD and PCOS are the same. The excessive secretion of the male hormones because of PCOS results in harmful symptoms such as: 


  1. Uterine Bleeding: 

Abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB) is defined as uterine bleeding that lasts longer than usual or occurs at an irregular time. Bleeding may be heavier or lighter than usual, and it may occur frequently or rarely. AUB can manifest as spotting or bleeding between periods.


  1. Infertility: 

This can be traced to the faulty ovulation process where the eggs are not released regularly which makes it difficult for women with PCOS to get pregnant. In the case of conception, however, the chances of miscarriage or preterm labor labour are very high.


“It's common for women to find out they have PCOS when they have trouble getting pregnant, but it often begins soon after the first menstrual period, as young as age 11 or 12. It can also develop in the 20s or 30s.” (CDC)



  1. Depression

Most women who have PCOS tend to have depression because of hormonal fluctuations along with their disturbed bodily functions. Hormonal imbalance causes major mood swings. This unexplainable disturbance in mood affects the person’s overall mental wellbeing and state of mind. Sudden changes in body appearance also induce negative emotions, which may have a direct link to depression. Women's mental health suffers greatly as a result of PCOS.



  1. Metabolic Syndrome

There is a high risk of having problems with high blood sugar levels resulting in diabetes. Blood glucose plays an important role in maintaining cardiovascular health. People who are diagnosed with PCOS are also at risk of heart strokes and high blood pressure. This is mainly because of the unusually varying insulin levels. 



Differentiating PCOD From PCOS: 

As we can clearly see, PCOD and PCOS have very similar symptoms. They do, however, differ in the causes. 


Dr. Liston has come across many doubts related to PCOD and PCOS. One of the most common questions most of her clients asked was the difference between PCOD and PCOS. In one of her sessions regarding the two conditions, she explained the symptoms and the problems of both PCOD and PCOS elaborately. She explained that PCOD is a condition that is basically triggered by the accumulation of premature eggs in the ovaries. These tend to result in the formation of cysts which trigger imbalance in the hormones. 


On the other hand, PCOS is a condition in which the endocrine glands begin to secrete excessive amounts of insulin and male hormones called androgens. This too causes the formation of cysts. However, on a larger scale, PCOS may lead to more severe disorders such as Endometrial cancer, Diabetes, High blood pressure, etc. 


Dr. Liston also explained how factors like lifestyles, genetics and food habits affect both disorders. The root cause of either of them is not yet determined and the conditions are treated by treating their symptoms. 


PCOS and PCOD have similarities in symptoms too, says Dr. Liston. The people suffering from the two conditions could be having irregular periods, pelvic pain, acne, unusual growth in facial hair, weight gain/weight loss, etc. There is no known causative agent for either condition. However, they appear to be triggered by an unhealthy lifestyle and genetics.

Explaining The Difference

As you guys can see from the story, although the symptoms of PCOD and PCOS were very similar, the causes of the conditions were different. To be precise, PCOD is caused because of the collection of premature eggs in the ovaries resulting in formation of fluid-filled sacs called cysts. This in turn triggers the excessive production of male hormones and insulin that causes various other symptoms. 


On the other hand, PCOS is mainly a syndrome that involves hormonal disturbance in  the endocrine system where there is no proper regulation of the production of reproductive hormones. It is directly associated with metabolic disorders. Most women who are diagnosed with PCOS face ‘insulin resistance’. 


In this condition, your body doesn’t respond normally to insulin and blocks the entry of glucose in the blood cells. This basically means that the glucose level in your body isn’t used effectively thus making it unstable. In response to this, the endocrine system produces more insulin. 


The excessive production of insulin triggers the production of male hormones, aka androgens like testosterone in the ovaries. This in turn results in problems in production of eggs (Ovulation). Insulin resistance is caused by lifestyle factors to an extent. 


Androgens are usually produced in both males and females. All women secrete small amounts of androgens in the ovaries and adrenal glands. An increase in these hormones due to abnormal conditions such as PCOD or PCOS triggers symptoms such as irregular periods and ovulation. 


Impact of PCOD And PCOS On Fertility And Well-Being

PCOD is a more common medical condition than PCOS. Talking about how the two medical conditions impact a woman’s overall wellbeing, both disorders have many common effects. 


PCOD does not affect fertility much as women who want to conceive can approach a gynaecologist and take medications to help with their ovulation. On the contrary, PCOS largely impacts fertility. The women diagnosed with PCOS find it very challenging to get pregnant mostly because of irregular ovulation. In case of conception, they have high chances of being prone to the risk of miscarriage, premature birth or premature labour. 



Both PCOD and PCOS have a negative impact on mental health. Most women suffering with these medical conditions are very insecure when it comes to their body image. They also find daily challenges and routines monotonous and overwhelming because of their unpredictable mood swings. It directly impacts their lifestyle. Many women suffer with depression, anxiety, and constant mood swings which constantly troubles them. 


While PCOD doesn’t cause any major conditions, PCOS can get really serious if left untreated. It can result in disorders and diseases such as endometrial cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. Thus, it is very important to take the best care and maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

Why Do People Confuse PCOD With PCOS? 

The main reason why people confuse PCOD with PCOS is because of the common symptoms. Both the conditions are associated with hormonal imbalance and irregular menstrual cycle. 


Many of us rely on lord Google for any minor inconvenience in our lives. This is the part where not all of us get the right information. Although google provides very elaborate information, it is important for us to pick the right one. The problem lies there. Most of us confuse PCOD and PCOS to be the same issue because we tend to rely on the wrong information most of the time. 


“People have asked me if PCOD and PCOS are the same thing. I could see that the main reason why they are confused is because of the common symptoms and the very vague way that it is explained to them.” - Dr. Mahathi. 


The best way to handle this issue is to approach your gynaecologist. They can clear your doubts and also help you personally with your questions regarding any issue by providing the right information. 


Taking Care of Yourselves When Diagnosed With PCOD & PCOS


Both PCOD and PCOS affect the hormonal balance in your body and your menstrual cycle. Taking care of your lifestyle when diagnosed with PCOD/PCOS is very important. Your eating habits and daily activities have a huge impact on your reproductive health. Forming healthy habits will help decrease the production of the male hormones/androgens in your body. Although PCOD and PCOS have different issues, maintaining body health will help you to combat with PCOD while also regulating your period cycle. These are some ways that you can adopt to maintain a healthy lifestyle:


Step 1: Keep An Eye On Your Lifestyle! 

With all our hectic schedules, it becomes problematic to truly monitor our daily routine. To begin with, it is extremely important to regulate your daily routine including sleep schedules, eating habits and work out. Stress plays a key role in triggering hormonal imbalance in the body. Having a healthy lifestyle will help in reducing stress and in turn keep your hormones in check. 


Step 2: Go For The Healthier Option

It is a common misconception that healthy food is torture for your taste buds. Let’s break that myth. Healthy food doesn’t mean that you completely cut down on your favourite food items. However, it does mean that you include fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. It could be tossed over in olive oil and seasoning or grilled over a barbeque to soothe your cravings. Taking in the right vitamins and nutrients will help your body by providing antioxidants and fibre. This will reduce the risk of many heart diseases, anaemia and cancer. It will also keep a check on the insulin and cholesterol levels in your body which will help in the secretion of the right amount of hormones. 



Step 3: Don’t Miss Working Out! 

We know how tempting it is to cheat on your diet. However, working out regularly ensures that the body gets the right amount of oxygen and also helps in monitoring blood sugar levels. It improves muscle health and boosts your body’s endurance to half the diseases on this planet. All that preaching aside, exercising regularly will help clear out your mind and reduce stress. It also keeps blood pressure in check and improves ovulation. So you should definitely consider adding that to your chart. 



Step 4: Go For Regular Check Ups

Visiting your gynaecologist will surely prove to be very helpful. This is mainly because you can monitor your progress the right way. Keeping track of your reproductive health can help you to take care of yourself better. It is definitely a better alternative than paying attention to hoaxes about your uterine health. 


Take Away

One of the most pressing issues today is being misled by false information. In the age of googling your symptoms and self diagnosis, it is advised to take note of your symptoms and talk to a medical professional in order to get the right understanding of your problem. In the case of PCOD and PCOS, there are many people who confuse the two conditions to be the same, while they are different. Therefore, it is important to clarify any doubts regarding this matter with your doctor to prevent any severe consequences.  



  • When do I consult the doctor?
  • Ans: Visit your gynaecologist if you missed your period for more than two months. Pay attention to any unusual growth of hair on the face, chest, back or abdomen. 

  • Can PCOD be cured?
  • Ans: PCOD is an issue that is mainly caused because of poor lifestyle. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, along with switching to healthier food habits can help with the speedy cure of PCOD. 

  • Can PCOS be cured?
  • Ans: PCOS cannot be completely cured. It is difficult to completely get rid of the issue as it is based in your endocrine system. However, it is treated by tending to your symptoms. 

  • The gynaecologists usually prescribe medications to treat the secretion of the right amount of hormones and fix the menstrual cycle. They also consider the metabolic patterns to tend to the syndrome. But, there are ways to naturally reverse PCOS. 

  • How long do I have to work out?
  • Ans: Working out for 30 minutes a day is sufficient to effectively bring down the symptoms of both PCOD and PCOS. Paired with a healthy lifestyle, this proves to be very effective in establishing a hormonal balance. 

  • Can I get pregnant with PCOD?
  • Ans: Conceiving when diagnosed with PCOS is definitely challenging as it affects fertility. The irregular production of eggs in the ovaries can make it difficult to get pregnant. 

  • In case of pregnancy, there are high chances of miscarriage and premature labour. With proper medical consultation and healthy lifestyle, you can monitor your ovulation and menstrual cycle. This can help you to get pregnant and have a healthy term.

  • Can I have PCOD after marriage?
  • Ans: You can be diagnosed with PCOD post marriage mainly because of a sudden change in lifestyle or increase in stress. Please consult your doctor in case of irregular periods and difficulty in getting pregnant. It is advisable to maintain a healthy and consistent lifestyle post marriage to avoid PCOD. 

  • Does PCOD affect women who are sexually active?
  • Ans: Sexual activity does not trigger PCOD. You can be diagnosed with PCOD irrespective of being sexually active or inactive. PCOD is diagnosed in females in case of poor lifestyle, stress and hormonal imbalance. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and exercising regularly can help in avoiding and also reducing the symptoms of PCOD. 

  • What is the worst case scenario for PCOS if left untreated?
  • Ans: There are high risks of heart related diseases, endocrine cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes when you don’t seek medical attention when diagnosed with PCOS. 

  • What can I do to cure myself from PCOS?
  • Ans: It is always advised to consult a gynaecologist when you suspect of having PCOS. This is considered to be a severe medical condition that requires you to seek proper medical attention. You can adopt a healthy lifestyle by fixing your sleep schedules, working out regularly and eating healthy to combat the symptoms of PCOS. But don’t miss consulting your gynaecologist. 

  • What questions will a doctor ask me if I go for consultation? 
  • Ans: When you consult your gynaecologist, you can speak freely about your issues. Be honest with your doctor as it will help her to accurately diagnose your symptoms. When you consult a gynaecologist for fertility related issues, you can expect to be asked the following questions: 


  • When was the last time you got your period?
  • How was your period flow?
  • How severe is your pelvic pain?
  • Have you gained or lost weight drastically recently after your previous period cycle?
  • Since how many days are you noticing the occurrence of these symptoms?
  • Are you planning for pregnancy?
  • Has anyone in your family been diagnosed with PCOD/PCOS?
  • Have you consulted any gynaecologist before?
  • Have you been having severe hair fall or acne?
  • How often do you work out?

The PCOD vs PCOS symptoms may be similar and harder to distinguish unless you stop and think about it. The dietary changes required are also similar. PCOD and PCOS both will require dietary and lifestyle changes to help you with your recovery. 

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by Dr. Pranjal on July 10, 2023 , 7 min read

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