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PCO and PCOs – what’s the difference?

Sometimes women are confused when they are told you have ‘Polycystic ovaries’ (PCO) or you have ‘Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome’ (PCOs).

Well, the difference is really quite straightforward…

PCO or polycystic ovaries is when many cysts are noted on the ovaries on ultrasound examination. This can be normal its just that many cysts are seen on the ultrasound and this is quite common. You make at least one cyst every month as part of ovulation. There are generally no symptoms and there is little risk of other diseases or infertility. Your hormones are generally well balanced and getting pregnant should not be any problem.

PCOs or PolyCystic Ovarian syndrome is a more serious problem. Its not as common – about 15% of women get PCOs and it can affect fertility. PCOs is part of a metabolic problem – in other words several issues with your metabolism are affected such as imbalanced female hormones and insulin resistance.

Years of high sugar intake or your body being very carbohydrate dependant, leads to a high insulin level. This can lead to Type 2 diabetes later in life but in the short term it causes release of male hormones like testosterone. This upsets the balance of the female hormones in your body like oestrogen and progesterone. The end result is problems like acne, irregular periods, no ovulation and increased hair growth especially on the face. More long term it results in difficulty getting pregnant and more miscarriages. Then other health problems associated with diabetes like heart disease are more common in later life.

The good news is there are things you can do about it. One of those is fixing your diet and reducing your insulin levels. I will be giving more information about that in later blogs, but the most important point at the moment is understanding the difference between the two problems.

Talk soon

Dr Shirley MD

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