PCOS vs PCOD: Understanding the Differences and Similarities


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People often get confused using the term PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and PCOD (polycystic ovary disease). Mostly, both terms are used interchangeably in the realm of women's health. However, while they share similarities, they are distinct conditions with unique characteristics. First, let us know what exactly these two terms mean.

What is PCOS?

PCOS is a broader term that encompasses not only the physical aspects of PCOD but also the systemic metabolic and endocrine disturbances associated with the condition. It is a complex condition that affects women across different age groups, including adolescents, women of childbearing age, and even postmenopausal women (Azziz R, Dumesic DA, Goodarzi MO. Polycystic ovary syndrome: An ancient disorder? Fertil Steril. 2011;95:1544–8). In this condition, the excessive production of androgens compels the eggs to become cysts (UNICEF, 2022. Do PCOD and PCOS mean the same thing or are they different (2023). Available at: (Accessed: 15 June 2023). PCOS has a wide range of symptoms and can have a negative impact on fertility and reproductive health (Panda PK, Rane R, Ravichandran R, Singh S, Panchal H. Genetics of PCOS: A systematic bioinformatics approach to unveil the proteins responsible for PCOS. Genom Data. 2016;8:52–60). Furthermore, due to its connection with other lifestyle-related illnesses, it can also contribute to significant cardiovascular and metabolic health issues (Franks S, McCarthy MI, Hardy K. Development of polycystic ovary syndrome: Involvement of genetic and environmental factors. Int J Androl. 2006;29:278–85).

The precise causes and mechanisms behind the development of PCOS are still being actively studied. While several theories have been proposed, there is ongoing research exploring various factors, including genetic predisposition and exposure to environmental influences both during fetal development and after birth (Goodarzi MO, Dumesic DA, Chazenbalk G, Azziz R. Polycystic ovary syndrome: Etiology, pathogenesis and diagnosis. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2011;7:219–31).

What is PCOD?

Polycystic ovary disease (PCOD) is a hormonal disorder that affects the ovaries. In this condition, the ovaries produce immature eggs, which gradually convert into small cysts (Nadar, R.G. and Athar, S., 2022. Pulsatilla in PCOD an Evidence Based Study. Journal of Medical and Pharmaceutical Innovation, 9(45)). Thus, PCOD is mainly characterized by the presence of multiple small cysts on the ovaries. 

PCOD is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances, and lifestyle choices. Common symptoms of PCOD include irregular periods, excessive hair growth (hirsutism), acne, weight gain, and fertility issues.

Further, in PCOD, the fertility of the women is not affected and this is the primary PCOD and PCOS difference. This is because the woman ovulates despite the condition and can become pregnant. Another vital PCOS and PCOD difference is that PCOD doesn't lead to serious complications. It is primarily diagnosed based on the presence of at least two out of three criteria, including irregular or absent menstrual periods, elevated androgen (male hormone) levels, and polycystic ovaries on ultrasound.

PCOD vs PCOS: Distinguishing Features

Although many aspects of PCOD and PCOS overlap with one another, some features help differentiate between the two conditions:

Prevalence: The PCOS and PCOD difference based on prevalence is that the incidence of PCOD is found in one-third of the women; whereas, PCOS is prevalent in 1 in 10 women. As per one of the studies conducted in Southern India and Maharashtra, about 9.13% of menstruating women suffer from PCOS and 22.5% have PCOD in those regions (UNICEF, 2022. Do PCOD and PCOS mean the same thing or are they different (2023). Available at: (Accessed: 15 June 2023)).

Metabolic Impact: PCOS carries a greater risk of metabolic complications like insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes, which are not as pronounced in PCOD.

Severity of Symptoms: PCOS tends to have more pronounced symptoms due to its broader impact on metabolic and endocrine functions.

Impact of Pregnancy: PCOS makes getting hard in comparison to PCOD. As the woman does not ovulate; their fertility gets affected severely.  On the contrary, with little medical help women with PCOD will be able to get pregnant.

PCOS vs PCOD: Similar Features

Irrespective of the PCOD and PCOS difference, there are some similarities that the two share. These are as follows:

Similar symptoms: Symptoms do not help to understand PCOS and PCOD difference as the presence of either of the condition displays similar signs like weight gain, infertility, acne, irregular periods, excessive hair growth etc.

Treatment Approaches:

Management of both PCOD and PCOS involves a multifaceted approach. The main aim of the treatment is to address the individual symptoms and underlying hormonal and metabolic imbalances. Treatment options include:

Lifestyle Changes: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, reduction in the consumption of alcohol and cigarettes and weight management can help improve symptoms by reducing insulin resistance and hormone imbalances.

Medications: Hormonal contraceptives, anti-androgen medications, and insulin-sensitizing agents may be prescribed to regulate menstrual cycles, control androgen levels, and manage metabolic abnormalities.

Fertility Treatments: Women experiencing fertility issues may require specialized treatments such as ovulation induction or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Psychological Support: Coping with the physical and emotional challenges of PCOD or PCOS can be overwhelming. Seeking support from therapists or support groups can be beneficial.

Irrespective of the PCOS and PCOD difference, as we can see the main intervention that can help to manage the symptoms of the condition is ‘healthy lifestyle’. To know more how you can tackle this condition, implement the tips mentioned by Dr. Geeta Ahuja, a senior gynaecologist from Jaipur, Rajasthan. 

Do share your views about PCOS vs PCOD  and how you have been managing your condition.

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