If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, you may have gone through an intensive session of “googling” everything that you can about the condition and read up as much content as you can. But, with all this information around you, you may have come across similar terms such as PCOS and PCOD. 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 vs PCOD. There is a lot of literature that has confirmed that the two medical conditions are related to hormonal imbalance in women and the formation of cysts in their ovaries. 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.
The symptoms of irregular periods, hormonal acne, increase in weight, excess of hair fall (alopecia) or excess of hair growth (hirsutism) and hyperpigmentation were noticed and they were linked to the root cause of an unhealthy lifestyle led by women. With the rise in the number of women who have this condition, these 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 that 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. Although it is not a serious problem in itself, it may cause harm to you in the longer run since it has no definite cure. However, the doctors might prescribe some medications that can relieve the symptoms of PCOS to keep them under control.
PCOD or PCOS, treating this chronic illness will require a sustainable and nutritionally rich diet along with regular physical activity. Infertility is not an effect of PCOS and women with PCOS can still conceive and become pregnant. However, if not treated at the right time, PCOS can cause long term complications for the women and have serious consequences.
So, even though the terms PCOD and PCOS are used interchangeably in many contexts, it is to be noted that PCOS is the correct and recent term as compared to PCOD, which is a more outdated and non-inclusive term to describe the symptoms faced by the women. We use the term PCOS more commonly and accurately now, since there is a wide array of symptoms with no specified or targeted cause of the same. These characteristics make it a syndrome rather than a disease.
After your diagnosis with PCOS, be sure to live a sustainably healthy life with better habits. A holistic approach is to include care for both physical and mental health and a treatment plan that is personalized to serve as your support and care through a chronic illness like PCOS. In case you feel that you are surrounded with a lot of misinformation, it is important for you to gain the correct information from your gynaecologist or mental health provider. A very important aspect is to understand your own PCOS journey and not self-medicate with medications or interventions that you may have seen other people use.