Is PCO (Polycystic Ovaries) different from PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)? And what are the causes for PCOS?

Yes. PCO (Polycystic Ovaries) is a normal variant of a woman’s ovary, whereas PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a diagnosed condition with short and long-term consequences. Despite the similarity in the names, the risks and medical treatments are very different for these two conditions.

PCO (Polycystic Ovaries) refers to an ultrasound scan image of the ovaries that appear to be polycystic (ovaries containing high density of partially mature follicles). Whereas, PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a metabolic condition in which a patient may or may not have polycystic ovaries. In fact, to be diagnosed with it, a woman should have at least two symptoms out of polycystic ovaries, irregular periods and increased male hormone in the blood test or associated symptoms such as extra hair growth or acne. Polycystic ovaries may appear in the ultrasound.

So, if a woman has irregular periods and an increased male hormone, she may have PCOS without her ovaries being polycystic. However, other conditions such as thyroid or pituitary dysfunction need to be excluded before this diagnosis.

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. There is evidence that genetics play a role. Several other factors also lead to PCOS such as high androgen levels, insulin resistance and low grade inflammation. High androgen levels prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation), which causes irregular menstrual cycles. Insulin resistance means your body doesn’t process insulin correctly, leading to high glucose levels in your blood. Increased insulin levels cause the ovaries to make and release male hormones (androgens). This further suppresses ovulation and contributes to other symptoms of PCOS. Another causative agent could be low-grade inflammation, in which people with PCOS tend to have chronic low-grade inflammation.

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Disclaimer
Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can further read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

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