PCOD vs PCOS: Understand The Difference

If you have heard about PCOS, you must've also heard the term PCOD. Are they different or the same thing? And why do people interchangeably use it?

Posted on June 8, 2022 ·

BY Team Veera

Medically Reviewed

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PCOS and PCOD – these terms have been floating around frequently and mostly interchangeably amongst people. But are these the same terms for the same condition? Or are there any differences? And if there are any differences, how do you understand what your condition is?

PCOD or polycystic ovarian disease and PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome, are the terms which are often used interchangeably in conversations. To understand what these terms convey, let us understand the difference between a disease and a symptom.

Disease v/s syndrome

A disease can be characterised with a definite cause and there is a specific biological pathway in the body that is affected and has its own set of symptoms. These symptoms or the underlying cause can be treated with a specific standard of care that is targeted at the cause of the disease. A syndrome can be profiled as a group of different symptoms and these symptoms may or may not have a defined cause. Because of this, a specific or targeted standard of care may not exist in these cases.

PCOD vs PCOS

Now that we are clear about the definition of disease and syndrome, it should be understood why they are used in the case of PCOS and PCOD. PCOD, however, is a term that was previously used when not much data was available regarding the condition. There was little characterisation of symptoms or the root cause of the condition itself, and hence, it was termed as a disease or PCOD.

With the rise in the number of women who have this condition, PCOS symptoms were further explored and the angle of being a metabolic disorder was also introduced. Long term complications along with the various systems it affects, brings in the definition of a syndrome into the picture. Thus, the term PCOS is more recent and updated than PCOD.

There is, however, a lot of misinformation around us regarding these terms that can not only disrupt your understanding of this chronic illness but also change the way you perceive its treatment. It is of utmost importance that you consult a physician about such information and follow their advice to you best.  However, the doctors might prescribe some medications that can relieve the symptoms of PCOS to keep them under control.

But how do you know if you have PCOS?

There is no exact reason as to what causes PCOS and why it affects different women in a different manner. However, if you are aware of the symptoms in your body and spot a pattern, it is advised to get it checked immediately with your doctor. Some of the common symptoms of PCOS are:

  1. Irregular periods: Since PCOS affects the ovaries and ovulation in your body, you may experience an irregularity in the occurrence of your periods. The lack of ovulation can prevent your uterine lining from shedding on the predicted date of your cycle.
  2. Heavy bleeding: Due to delayed or lack of ovulation, the lining of your uterus might have built up and the periods you get later may be heavier than the normal flow.
  3. Hair growth: A lot of girls and women experience an accelerated growth of extra hair on their body, especially on their face, chest and back – due to the excess of male hormones in their body. This excess of hair growth is also known as hirsutism.
  4. Acne: The androgens can make the skin oilier than the usual oil secretions on the skin. You may notice more acne breakouts on your face, back and chest due to increased oil secretion.
  5. Gain of weight: Almost 80 percent of women with PCOS become overweight due to a multitude of reasons while dealing with insulin resistance and inflammation.
  6. Alopecia: Some women may also experience thinning or hair and gradual hair fall in PCOS because of the androgens. This symptom is also known as alopecia.

With such diverse and scattered symptoms of PCOS, it can be difficult to understand if the condition you have is PCOS or not. Your doctor might conduct a couple of preliminary or confirmatory tests to ascertain if you have PCOS, and that may include an ultrasound and a couple of blood tests. So whether you get tested for PCOD or PCOS, remember that it is the same thing!

Disclaimer: Content on Veera is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, or as a substitute for medical advice given by a physician

Verified by Dr. Iris Lee

Fellow in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Lee is a fellow in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Pennsylvania. She completed medical school and residency training at the University of Pennsylvania as well. Her work focuses primarily on PCOS, particularly the metabolic and mental health implications. Outside of work, she enjoys baking, reading, and spending time with her husband and two puppies.

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