The full form of PCOD is Polycystic Ovarian Disease. This is also known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and is a very common condition affecting 5% to 10% of women in the age group 12–45 years. It is a problem in which a woman’s hormones are out of balance. It can cause problems with menstrual periods and make it difficult for her to conceive. The principal features include no ovulation, irregular periods, acne and hirsutism. If PCOD treatment is not followed it can cause insulin-resistant diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol leading to heart disease.
Signs and symptoms of PCOD often develop around the time of the first menstrual period during puberty. Sometimes PCOD develops later, for example, in response to substantial weight gain.
Signs and symptoms of PCOD vary. A diagnosis of PCOD is made when you experience at least two of these signs:
- Irregular periods. Infrequent, irregular or prolonged menstrual cycles are the most common sign of PCOD. For example, you might have fewer than nine periods a year, more than 35 days between periods and abnormally heavy periods.
- Excess androgen. Elevated levels of male hormones may result in physical signs, such as excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), and occasionally severe acne and male-pattern baldness.
- Polycystic ovaries. Your ovaries might be enlarged and contain follicles that surround the eggs. As a result, the ovaries might fail to function regularly.
PCOD signs and symptoms are typically more severe if you’re obese.
The exact cause of PCOD isn’t known. Factors that might play a role include:
- Excess insulin. Insulin is the hormone produced in the pancreas that allows cells to use sugar, your body’s primary energy supply. If your cells become resistant to the action of insulin, then your blood sugar levels can rise and your body might produce more insulin. Excess insulin might increase androgen production, causing difficulty with ovulation.
- Low-grade inflammation. This term is used to describe white blood cells’ production of substances to fight infection. Research has shown that women with PCOD have a type of low-grade inflammation that stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens, which can lead to heart and blood vessel problems.
- Heredity. Research suggests that certain genes might be linked to PCOD.
- Excess androgen. The ovaries produce abnormally high levels of androgen, resulting in hirsutism and acne.
Complications of PCOD can include:
- Gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
- Miscarriage or premature birth
- Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis — a severe liver inflammation caused by fat accumulation in the liver
- Metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels that significantly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes
- Sleep apnea
- Depression, anxiety and eating disorders
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Cancer of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer)
There’s no test to definitively diagnose PCOD. Your doctor is likely to start with a discussion of your medical history, including your menstrual periods and weight changes. A physical exam will include checking for signs of excess hair growth, insulin resistance and acne.
If you have a diagnosis of PCOD, your doctor might recommend additional tests for complications. Those tests can include:
- Periodic checks of blood pressure, glucose tolerance, and cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Screening for depression and anxiety
- Screening for obstructive sleep apnea
The cure is yet to be determined for PCOD. Hence the PCOD treatment focusses on managing your individual concerns, such as infertility, hirsutism, acne or obesity.
• Lowering of blood glucose levels
• Restoration of fertility
• Treatment of hirsutism or acne
• Restoration of regular menstruation, and prevention of endometrial hyperplasia and endometrial cancer
You must remember that PCOD treatment will only help with proper lifestyle changes.
Also, getting pregnant is not an issue if PCOD is under control. However, you may need medications or assisted reproductive technology (ART) with a fertility expert.
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