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Birla Fertility & IVF

Everything You Need to Know About PCOD

  • Published on July 10, 2023
Everything You Need to Know About PCOD

Polycystic ovarian disorder, or PCOD, is a complex hormonal condition. It is one of the complex diseases where cysts start forming around the ovaries. This disorder typically affects women of reproductive age. Some women do not realize the signs and symptoms of PCOD until they are suffering from it.

What is PCOD?

Before understanding PCOD symptoms and treatment, lets get an idea of ‘what is PCOD?’ In PCOD, the ovaries may develop small follicles (cysts), which can interfere with the regular release of eggs. The exact causes of PCOD are not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It increases the risk of developing other health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and endometrial cancer. Suppose you suspect you have PCOD or are experiencing any concerning symptoms. In that case, it’s important to consult with an expert who can provide an accurate PCOD diagnosis and recommend appropriate PCOD treatment options based on the individual’s situation.

Major Symptoms of PCOD

The symptoms of PCOD can vary from person to person, and not all individuals experience all of them. The characteristic symptoms of PCOD include irregular or absent menstrual periods, excessive hair growth (hirsutism), acne, weight gain, and fertility issues. Women with PCOD may also experience hormonal imbalances, such as higher levels of androgens (male hormones) and insulin resistance. Here are some common symptoms of PCOD:

  1. Menstrual Irregularities: PCOD often leads to irregular menstrual cycles. You may experience infrequent periods, prolonged periods, or heavy bleeding. Some individuals may also have absent periods.
  2. Ovarian Cysts: In PCOD, multiple small cysts emerge on the ovaries. There is no standard size, shape, or number for cysts. All these aspects may vary from one person to another. These cysts are formed due to immature follicles that do not release an egg during the normal menstrual cycle. However, it’s important to note that not all individuals with PCOD have visible cysts on ultrasound.
  3. Hormonal Imbalances: PCOD involves an imbalance in various hormones, particularly increased levels of androgens (male hormones) such as testosterone. This hormonal imbalance can lead to symptoms such as acne, oily skin, and excessive hair growth (hirsutism) on the face, chest, abdomen, or back. Hair loss or thinning of the hair (male-pattern baldness) may also occur. These mentioned symptoms of PCOD are majorly considered as early signs.
  4. Weight Changes: Many women with PCOD may struggle with weight gain or find it difficult to lose weight. This can be attributed to hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, and a slower metabolic rate.
  5. Insulin Resistance: Insulin resistance is a common feature of PCOD. It refers to the body’s reduced ability to respond to insulin, leading to increased insulin production. Insulin resistance can result in weight gain, difficulty losing weight, and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  6. Skin Issues: PCOD can cause skin problems such as acne, oily skin, and dark patches of skin (acanthosis nigricans) around the neck, groin, or armpits. These skin changes are associated with hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance.
  7. Mood Swings and Depression: Some individuals with PCOD may experience mood swings, irritability, anxiety, or depression. Hormonal imbalances, menstrual irregularities, and the impact on body image can contribute to these emotional symptoms.
  8. Fertility Issues: PCOD is a leading cause of infertility in women. The hormonal imbalances, lack of ovulation, and irregular menstrual cycles can make it challenging to conceive.

It’s important to note that the symptoms and severity of PCOD can vary among individuals. Some women may have mild symptoms, while others may experience more pronounced effects. If you suspect you have PCOD or are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is recommended that you consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and guidance.

Significant causes of PCOD

While the exact causes of PCOD are still unknown, several factors contribute to its development. Here are a few of the significant causes of PCOD that are believed to play a role:

  1. Insulin Resistance : Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body’s cells become less responsive to the hormone insulin, leading to higher insulin levels in the blood. This can disrupt the normal functioning of the ovaries and result in hormonal imbalances associated with PCOD.
  2. Hormonal Imbalances : PCOD involves an imbalance of reproductive hormones, particularly elevated levels of androgens (male hormones) such as testosterone. This hormonal imbalance can interfere with the normal ovulation process and contribute to the formation of ovarian cysts.
  3. Genetic Factors : There are some significant genetic components to the PCOD condition, as it tends to get carried from one generation to another. At times, such components vary and influence hormone level fluctuations, which may result in the development of PCOD.
  4. Inflammation : Chronic low-grade inflammation in the body may be associated with PCOD. Inflammation can affect hormone production and disrupt the normal functioning of the ovaries.

It’s important to note that the specific causes of PCOD can vary from person to person. Additionally, while these factors are known to contribute to PCOD, the exact interplay between them is still being studied.

Diagnosis of PCOD 

PCOD can have various implications for a woman’s health. PCOD diagnosis typically involves a combination of medical history assessment, physical examination, blood tests to measure hormone levels, and imaging tests such as ultrasound to visualize the ovaries. PCOD treatment options aim to manage the symptoms of the disease and reduce the risk of complications. Some common treatments for PCOD problem may include lifestyle changes like a healthy diet and regular exercise to manage weight, hormonal contraceptives to regulate menstrual cycles, and medications to address specific symptoms like excessive hair growth or insulin resistance.
Polycystic ovary disease (PCOD) is characterized by various signs and symptoms, including irregular or absent menstrual periods, excess androgen (male hormone) levels, and the presence of multiple cysts on the ovaries. Now that we know that the exact causes of PCOD are not fully comprehended by the researchers, they are still working on them, despite the fact that it is believed to involve a combination of hereditary, genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors.
For PCOD diagnosis, an expert considers a combination of medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests. Here is an overview of the diagnostic process followed for PCOD:

  1. Medical history: The doctor will begin by discussing your menstrual history, including the regularity of your periods, any missed periods, and the presence of other symptoms such as hirsutism (excessive hair growth) or acne. They will also inquire about your family history of PCOD or other hormonal disorders.
  2. Physical examination: The doctor will perform a physical examination to check for signs of PCOD, such as excess hair growth, acne, or signs of insulin resistance (e.g., weight gain, skin changes). They may also measure your blood pressure and calculate your body mass index (BMI).
  3. Pelvic examination: A pelvic examination is usually conducted to assess the reproductive organs. The doctor will examine the ovaries for any enlargement or the presence of cysts.
  4. Blood tests: Various blood tests are used to evaluate hormone levels and rule out other conditions. These tests may include:
  • Hormone levels: Blood tests may be done to measure hormone levels, such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), testosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS). Elevated levels of androgens (male hormones) are often seen in PCOD.
  • Glucose and insulin levels: fasting blood glucose and insulin levels may be measured to assess insulin resistance, which is commonly associated with PCOD.
  • Lipid profile: Blood lipid levels, including cholesterol and triglycerides, may be checked to assess cardiovascular risk factors.
  • Thyroid function: Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels may be measured to rule out thyroid disorders, which can mimic PCOD symptoms.

5. Pelvic ultrasound: A pelvic ultrasound is often performed to examine the ovaries for the   presence of cysts. The ultrasound can also assess the size and appearance of the ovaries and the endometrial lining of the uterus.

The Rotterdam Consensus in 2003 established a set of criteria in order to diagnose PCOD disorder. According to the criteria mentioned, the diagnosis of PCOD requires the presence of at least two of the three measurements given below:

  • Irregular or absent menstrual cycles: This refers to infrequent menstrual periods or prolonged intervals between periods.
  • Clinical and/or biochemical signs of hyperandrogenism: This includes symptoms such as hirsutism (excessive hair growth), acne, or elevated levels of androgens in the blood.
  • Polycystic ovaries: This is identified through ultrasound examination, where the ovaries may appear enlarged and have multiple small cysts.

It is important to note that the diagnosis of PCOD is not solely based on the presence of cysts in the ovaries. Other causes of similar symptoms, such as thyroid disorders or adrenal gland abnormalities, should be ruled out.
These symptoms of PCOD can also be indicative of other conditions, and an accurate diagnosis should be made by a healthcare professional. If diagnosed with PCOD, the doctor will discuss treatment for PCOD problem and personalize it to your specific needs and goals. It is also believed that PCOD treatment, such as lifestyle modification, following a healthy diet, regular exercise, and medications,  can manage symptoms of PCOD and hormonal imbalances. However, regular monitoring and follow-up with your specialist are always advisable and necessary for PCOD treatment.

Effective Treatments for PCOD?

The PCOD treatment strategy still hasn’t been found, but most of the symptoms of PCOD can be managed through basic changes. Although the treatment for PCOD problem can vary from one woman to another, someone with the condition may experience a range of symptoms or just one. Typically, the treatment for PCOD involves a blend of factors like lifestyle changes, proper medications, and targeted treatments. To give you a detailed explanation for your understanding, some of the significant PCOD treatment options are discussed below:

  • Medications:

Birth Control Pills : Oral contraceptives can help regulate menstrual cycles, control androgen levels, and reduce acne. This can also reduce the long-term risk of developing cancer of the womb lining (endometrial cancer) associated with not having regular periods.

Anti-androgen Medications : These medications can help manage symptoms like hirsutism (excessive hair growth) and acne by reducing androgen levels.

Fertility Problems : A medicine named Clomifene is usually considered the first line of treatment recommended for women with PCOD considering getting pregnant. This medicine typically helps stimulate the ovaries to produce viable eggs. At times, when Clomifene fails to show any results, an expert may prescribe an alternate medicine called metformin to encourage ovulation.

  • Regular Check-ups :

It’s very important to have regular check-ups recommended by your doctor to monitor the symptoms of PCOD, assess the effectiveness of the treatment plan, and address any concerns or complications that a person is experiencing or that may arise.

How do I manage PCOD?

There are a few tips that can help you manage the symptoms of PCOD. Some of them are lifestyle modifications, such as:

how to manage pcod

  • Healthy Diet : Adopting a balanced diet with an emphasis on whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can be beneficial. Limiting processed foods, sugary snacks, and refined carbohydrates is important.
  • Regular Exercise : Engaging in regular physical activity can help improve insulin sensitivity, promote weight management, and regulate hormone levels. 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week has proven to be very beneficial.
  • Weight Management : If overweight, losing even a modest amount of weight can improve the symptoms of PCOD. Consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for guidance on weight loss strategies tailored to one’s needs.
  • Stress Management : Living with PCOD can be extremely challenging, both physically and emotionally, for some. That’s why seeking support from healthcare professionals, support groups, or therapists who specialize in reproductive health to address any emotional or psychological impact becomes very important.

What should I avoid in PCOD?

It is important to manage the symptoms of PCOD to improve your quality of life. Therefore, there are a few things you should avoid if you are diagnosed with PCOD. The following tips will help you prevent your existing symptoms from getting worse. To manage this condition, you should avoid:

What should I avoid in PCOD

  • Oily or fried food items
  • Spicy food
  • Ready-to-eat or processed food items
  • Excessive intake of caffeine
  • Quit smoking as it can adversely affect the condition
  • Avoid refined sugar and other sugary food items
  • Don’t consume alcohol or cocktails
  • Fizzy or carbonated drinks
  • Raw seafood
  • Red meat
  • Starcy vegetables
  • Limit your intake of dairy products

Bottom Line

PCOD is not just an endocrine disorder; it is a combination of metabolic and psychosocial detriments. The above article can you a detailed idea of what is PCOD, to the causes of PCOD, to symptoms of PCOD, to PCOD diagnosis, and last but not least, PCOD treatment. It is recommended that PCOD management works better when customised to individual needs, and working on it with your expert is key to developing a personalized treatment plan. With proper management and support, many women with PCOD can effectively control their symptoms and lead healthy, fulfilling lives. If you have been diagnosed with PCOD and are looking for expert advice, call us to book a free consultation with our specialist.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Can PCOD affect my fertility?

Yes. PCOD can affect your fertility because of hormonal imbalances. It can also lower your chances of getting pregnant naturally.

  • Can PCOD be cured only through medication?

Not really, there are no medications through which PCOD can be cured. However, some lifestyle modifications, such as exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and managing stress levels, can help manage the symptoms of PCOD.

  • How can I stop PCOD symptoms?

You cannot stop symptoms of PCOD from emerging. However, the best way is to check with a specialist and seek appropriate guidelines to manage them properly.

  • What are the home remedies to cure PCOD?

There is no certain way to cure PCOD. But some home remedies can help you manage your PCOD symptoms well. Here are a few home remedies that you can take to soothe the symptoms of PCOD:

  • Flaxseeds
  • Cinnamon
  • Omega3 supplements
  • Fish oil supplements
  • Chasteberry (Nirgundi)
  • Liquorice (mulethi)
  • I am experiencing irregular periods, does that mean I have PCOD?

No, irregular periods can be the result of a poor diet, a change in lifestyle, or other factors. Though, in some cases, PCOD can be one of the contributing factors to irregular periods. Therefore, it is better to check with your gynaecologist to detect the exact root cause and get the proper treatment for it.

  • Can caffeine worsen PCOD symptoms?

Yes. Experts say that caffeine can lead to dehydration, which can have an adverse effect on the ovaries, resulting in the formation of cysts.

Written by:
Dr. Kalpana Jain

Dr. Kalpana Jain

Consultant
Dr. Kalpana Jain, an experienced fertility expert, with nearly two decades of clinical practice. With a strong focus on providing compassionate and patient-oriented care, her expertise ranges from laparoscopy to reproductive ultrasounds in the field of fertility.
17+ years of experience
Guwahati, Assam

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