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PCOD: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments

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Around 5-10% of women suffer from a common hormonal condition called PCOD. This disease is characterized by the growth of multiple small, benign cysts in the ovaries. It is found mostly among women who are of childbearing age. In this condition, there is an imbalance of hormonal levels (estrogen and progesterone) that leads to issues like infertility, irregular menstrual periods, frequent acne breakouts, undesirable hair growth or hair loss, unexplained weight gain, and so on. If not managed on time or left untreated, it can cause serious health issues in women such as diabetes and heart disease. The good news is that PCOD can be managed primarily with proper diet and lifestyle changes. [2, 3]

What is PCOD?:

PCOD, a short form of Poly Cystic Ovarian Disease, is a medical condition wherein there is hormonal imbalance leading to excessive secretion of androgens-male sex hormone by the ovaries. This affects ovulation- a phase in the menstrual cycle where ovaries release mature eggs. In the case of PCOD, the ovaries produce lot many partially or immature eggs which eventually develop into cysts. Cysts are the little fluid-filled sacs. Due to cysts formation, the ovaries enlarge and in turn secreted more androgens. [1, 3]

How PCOD is different from PCOS?

Most people think PCOD and PCOS as the same and use them interchangeably. Although, they are marked with similar symptoms they are two different conditions.

  • PCOD (Poly Cystic Ovarian Disease) is a hormonal condition wherein the ovaries release lot many immature or partially mature eggs that eventually get converted into cysts. On the other side, PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) is an endocrine or metabolic disorder, a severe form of PCOD where anovulation (the ovaries stop releasing eggs) happens.
  • PCOD can be cured by a simple change in diet and lifestyle while PCOS requires medications and treatment. If PCOS is not treated timely, it can lead to chronic health problems.  [1, 3]

Causes of PCOD

The causes of PCOD are still unclear. However, medical researchers have found a link between PCOD and hyperandrogenism (excessive production of male sex hormones), low-grade inflammation, genetics, and insulin resistance where blood has higher levels of insulin which in turn affects androgens production by the ovaries.

In addition, PCOD is found to be exacerbated by unhealthy lifestyles and early menarche.

  • Obesity- As per the article published by NCBI, obesity is thought to be a predisposing factor for PCOD. Some mechanisms prove that women with PCOD further gain more weight.
  • Poor lifestyle- PCOD is more prevalent in young women because of their intake of unhealthy food and a sedentary lifestyle. Such women who are physically inactive, obese, or overweight suffer from metabolic imbalances such as insulin resistance, resulting in PCOD.
  • Stress- A woman whose body is constantly under stress and whose mind is full of negative thoughts, experiences hormonal imbalances because of disruptions in the endocrine system, potentially leading to PCOD. [1, 2]

Symptoms of PCOD

In most cases, women do not even realize that they are suffering from PCOD. Some women discover PCOD symptoms as early as getting their first menses while others experience them when they have dramatic weight gain or they have tried conceiving but failed. Here are some common symptoms of PCOD. Do pay attention to them so that there is an early diagnosis of the condition and timely treatment.

  1. Irregular or scarce menstrual periods: It is the first sign of PCOD found in most women suffering from this condition. It is caused due to lack of ovulation which prevents the uterine lining to shed blood in a month. It can be self-detected by paying acute attention to the monthly cycle of menses. Some women experience less than 8 periods in a year or have them every 21 days or more while some don’t have them at all.
  2. Sudden weight gain: 80% of women with PCOD are overweight or obese and face difficulty in losing weight. Usually, the fat deposits occur in the lower abdomen area as a result of insulin resistance and more androgens production.
  3. Heavy bleeding: As periods happen irregularly, the build-up of blood in the uterine wall is more. Thus, one can expect to have periods heavier than usual.
  4. Excessive body and facial hair: Due to increased production of male sex hormone androgens, women experience hirsutism-excessive hair growth on the face, upper back, and chest. 70% of women have this symptom.
  5. Mood swings: PCOD results in irregular menses and hormonal fluctuations which leads to sudden mood changes.
  6. Oily skin: Due to more production of the hormone, the skin also goes for a toss. There is increased sebum production which causes frequent acne breakouts.
  7. Skin darkening: It usually occurs on the neck or around the private parts.
  8. Hair thinning or loss: Most women having PCOD experience receding hairline while some even suffer from hair loss as a result of hormonal imbalance.
  9. Diabetes: Women with PCOD are at higher risk of developing diabetes because of insulin resistance. [2, 3]

Treatments for PCOD

PCOD is not treatable with specific medication and its cure is not yet discovered. The commonly suggested treatments to manage PCOD include:

1- Having a healthy diet- It must be rich in lean protein and fiber and limited in sugars, carbohydrates, and fats. Estrogen-boosting foods must be avoided. It will help in keeping the blood sugar levels stable and maintaining body weight.

2- Daily exercises- Women with PCOD need to be physically active by doing regular exercises which help lower their Body Mass Index. Several types of exercises can be undertaken, including:

Mind-body exercises like yoga and tai-chi

  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) like burpees, sprints, jump squats, and lunges
  • Core strength exercises like butterfly sit-up and forearm planks
  • Strength training such as tricep dips, squats, and push-ups
  • Cardio workouts such as jogging, swimming, walking, and cycling.

3- Go stress-free- Manage stress in ways that suit one better like taking a break, deep breathing, exercising, slowing down, taking time for hobbies, keeping yourself busy, and many more.

4- Have proper sleep- Have a good restful sleep of about 8 hours.. [1, 3]

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References:

  1. https://www.starhealth.in/blog/polycystic-ovarian-disease
  2. https://endoworldhospital.com/pcod-causes-symptoms-treatment/
  3. https://www.healthifyme.com/blog/pcod/

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