Do You Know The Difference Between Polycystic Ovaries (PCO) and PCOS? 101
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August 25, 2015 at 3:02 pm #4697
A common confusion among women, is understanding the difference between having polycystic ovaries (PCO) and having been diagnosed with a Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
PCO refers to an ultrasound scan image of the ovaries that appear to be polycystic (ovaries containing high density of partially mature follicles).
PCOS is a metabolic condition that may or may not come with having polycystic ovaries. In fact, to be diagnosed with PCOS a woman needs to have 2 of the following: 1) Polycystic ovaries appear on ultrasound. 2) Irregular periods. 3) Increased male hormone in the blood test or associated symptoms such as extra hair growth or acne. So if a woman has irregular periods and an increased male hormone she could have PCOS without her ovaries being polycystic. However, other conditions such as thyroid or pituitary dysfunction need to be excluded before PCOS diagnosis is made.
Although there may be some similarities in the names, the risks and medical treatments are very different for these 2 situations. PCO is a normal variant of a womanâs ovary, whereas PCOS is a diagnosed condition with short and long-term consequences. This article will outline the major differences between the two.
PCO is more common than PCOS:
PCO is more prevalent with up to a third of women of childbearing age having polycystic ovaries on ultrasound and no other symptoms. PCOS, on the other hand, affects 12-18% of women of reproductive age, with 70% of these cases remain undiagnosed in the community.
PCO is not a disease, whilst PCOS is a metabolic condition:
PCO is a variant of normal ovaries, whilst PCOS is a metabolic disorder associated with an unbalanced hormone levels released by the womanâs ovaries.
Women with PCOS are at risk of developing the associated long-term effects, whereas women PCO are not:
Women with PCOS should be aware of the risks which may include: diabetes, pregnancy complications (ie. gestational diabetes), cardio-vascular disease, obesity and endometrial cancer. Women with PCO do not have the same risk profile.
PCOS has symptoms and is evident early in life whilst PCO has no symptoms and often discovered by chance:
Whilst both PCO and PCOS have a genetic component, PCOS often start showing symptoms (acne, excess hair growth etc.) in teen years, due to the associated metabolic disturbance. PCO may also be present early in life, but since there are no symptoms, it is discovered incidentally during other health checks when the woman is older.
Emergence of cysts in PCO may be caused by a variety of reasons as opposed to PCOS where is it linked to a hormonal disorder:
Women with PCO may still posses the hormonal balance and continue to ovulate regularly. Whilst in PCOS, the hormonal balance is distorted which interferes with ovulation. In a large proportion of these women the mechanism is linked to high insulin release that stimulates the production of androgens from the ovary disturbing ovulation.
Women with PCO can still get pregnant, whilst those with PCOS may struggle with infertility:
Conception with PCO may not be difficult, however women with PCOS may have problems getting pregnant. In addition, women with PCOS have a higher miscarriage rates.August 26, 2015 at 11:31 am #4721
Well this gives a good explanation of the difference but for me, apart from having Polycystic ovaries n excessive hair on my tummy, my hormone levels are good and I have regular menses.
But the problem is I still have a infertility and a high incidence of miscarriage and had gestational diabetes in pregnancy. So my question is what would you describe me as having? PCO or PCOS? 🙂August 26, 2015 at 1:09 pm #4723
@feisty2015 :If your meses is regular as you said…Have you checked if you are ovulating or not. Because having menses doesnt gurantee regular ovulation or ovulation. Having a period without ovulating cant result to pregnancy, guess thats why you are having challenges with concieving. And looking at it critically, doctors try to achieve ovulation by inducing it with pills(clomid…e.t.c) or injectables so that they can attain that height for you(Ovulation).
Also,you made mention of having gestational diabetes…Have you ever checked your glucose level(blood sugar)/insulin level…all this needs to be checked. And women with such are precribed Metformin…e.t.c because it helps regulate blood sugar which was the main aim of the drug, and not until recent that they saw its functionality in infertility.
I cant describe you because I dont know you personally nor your medical history but would advise you to know your ovulation status and Insulin level.
I hope I tackled your question and I hope this helps. :friends:ÂAugust 26, 2015 at 1:40 pm #4726
@feisty2015 and @hephziba, I would definitely classify you as PCO, just like a lot of us. With polycystic ovaries, there is the high tendency of only producing immature follicles (hence the infertility), and low(ish) progesterone (hence the early miscarriages). But we don’t have the full blown syndrome per say, and so don’t exhibit the typical symptoms as irregular menstruation, weight gain, hair loss, etc. We might have a few of these though (like I am rather hairy, have experienced moderate weight gain, and some level of hair loss, but my periods are clockwork, and my hormone levels are apparently within normal range). Our blood sugar could be higher than what is regarded ideal (hence the gestational diabetes tendency), but it is often not enough to require sugar regulation meds like Metformin.August 26, 2015 at 3:39 pm #4735
@pearl I got to know about pcos in ’13 and I have been reading as much as I can. For me I av never had a regular period (even with weightloss) except with meds like birth control pills / provera etc, ovaries have cycst and I think I have been able to get ovulation naturally with opk once. That’s my own reason for a slow move on motherhood cause I don’t think I can take the montly disappointment of AF,previous year wasall about pcos / ovulation and I was indeed a shadow of myself.
Note: Another thing I hate about pcos is having pregnancy signs (throwing up,feeling weak) while you are not and finally MOOD swing.August 26, 2015 at 4:10 pm #4736
@pearl, Â for me it is irregular menstrual cycle, weight gain, acne. Thankfully I don’t have chin hair or chest hair on any kind of masculine hair pattern. I don’t know if I can include hair loss? ?? Right from birth I have this very soft and missing Frontline kinda hair, I blamed it on my dad’s strong gene, is it possible to exhibit symptoms of PCOS OR PCO from young age?
From my narration please is it PCO OR PCOS? During transvaginal scan there is usually about 7 or more follicles on each ovary.August 27, 2015 at 6:44 am #4770
@reggy ,It is very much possible to exhibit PCOS symptoms from a tender age.
Tender age is relative: which also boils down to individuals family history, medical history, environment e.t.c
Also, due to my studies and my findings I wouldnt in anyway rule out PCOS for you because you made mention of irregular menstrual cycle but you need to run some couple of test to be sure: LH,FSH,testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. All those would also help in your diagnosis.
Talking about weight gain, there are lots of misconceptions about PCOS and weight gain.
Note: Not all patients with PCOS are over-weight or obese.
However, 7folicles on both sides are fine and normal.August 27, 2015 at 12:34 pm #4781
@pearl,I have no doubt about my pcos status,I have a first class iregular period as in one month could be 28 days,then d next one culd be 6 months after.I have some appearance of chin hair though my doc says dis is not too abnormal.my ovaries used to be filled with so many cyst,though at a june TVS scan there was a a great reduction in d cystic appearance of my ovaries I attribute dis to fertilaid.I also av issues with ovulation,which I confirmed for 6 Month\cycles.in dis 6 month I was on M2tone and I surprisingly had menses each month.in my bid to catch my egg if I ovulated in dis cycles I used OPK to check my urine morning and evening for 6 months.can u imagine I saw only a faint line in d third month,this happened just twice.Meaning that in as much as I got a period dis 6 months on M2tone I wasn’t ovulating,maybe I ovulated only in dat 3rd month and I didn’t become pregnant.I also feel exhausted very easily,I also can gain weight without any effort,I just nid to eat much and sleep a lot for a week and I pile on so many pounds I can’t fit into clothes that fit me a week before,I also feel pregnancy symptoms sometimes, So dis is what my pcos looks likeAugust 27, 2015 at 10:03 pm #4792
Feisty2015ParticipantAugust 29, 2015 at 4:15 pm #4853
@pearl. I was diagnosed with PCOS in 2014.i have irregular periods. i do not have acne or experience weight gain because I am quite slender. Am not married but am scared of the future . The gyne prescribed metformin and clomid, and advised me to relax until am ready to conceive. What advise do you have for me please . ThanksAugust 29, 2015 at 9:42 pm #4866
@ujayzy,Â you are very wise to be proactive. I think the Metformin is a good way to go, but I’m not sure about the Clomid, since you are not trying to conceive at the moment. In addition to that, please try to eat right…eliminating all the foods us PCOS girls need to avoid at all costs (especially white carbs, sweets, pastry…and the like). If you do that, and lead a healthy lifestyle, you’ll have gotten a great head start for when you are readyAugust 31, 2015 at 7:18 am #4898
@ujayzy : In addition to what @nicole made mention of, I would suggest you stick to what your doctor placed you on(clomid and metformin) and also adjust your lifestyle.
The reason you should take clomid is because it will help you to ovulate; thereby in a way you can have a “regular cycle” i.e you know when you are about to ovulate/will be ovulating.
Also, inducing your period will also help you shed your lining wall which will help later in the future, because if you dont shed your lining there is a high risk of endomentrial cancer now and in the future.
Metformin will regulate your blood sugar and help later when you are ready to concieve but thats not a pass for you to live on junk. 😉
I hope this helps and if you have any further question, we all are here for you. :hug:Â :friends:ÂAugust 31, 2015 at 9:36 pm #4926
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