Know the difference
Endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, are major ailments that can have an impact on your feminine and reproductive health. While not that common, affecting about 10% of women, they aren’t easily diagnosed. Here’s what to look out for and the differences between them.
What is it?
This is an often painful disorder in which the tissue that lines the uterus, the endometrium, begins to form in other areas outside the uterus, such as around the ovaries, fallopian tubes and in the pelvis. Because the tissue
behaves in a similar way to the lining of the uterus, thickening and breaking down with each monthly cycle, it can cause the surrounding tissue and organs to become irritated, which develops into cysts, scar and fibrous tissue.
Symptoms of endometriosis
- Pelvic pain, often around the time of your period.
- Pain with bowel movements and urination.
- Heavy periods and/or bleeding during your period.
- Endometriosis is often diagnosed in women struggling with fertility.
What causes endometriosis?
It’s not fully understood how it develops, but a theory is that the endometrial cells and tissue flow backwards and up the fallopian tubes into the pelvic cavity during menstruation. Another cause could be the role of reproductive hormones in the body, which stimulate cells in the abdomen to transform into endometrial cells.
If you think you’re suffering from endometriosis, it can be difficult for a doctor to diagnose as in most cases an invasive laparoscopy is needed, during which a surgeon will look into your abdominal cavity for signs of the tissue. Less invasive procedures include a physical examination or an ultrasound to detect potential ovarian cysts caused by endometriosis. If diagnosed, treatment often includes hormonal therapy, surgery to scrape away built-up endometrial
tissue (however it can build up again, requiring further surgeries), or in very severe cases, a hysterectomy.
What is it?
This is a hormonal disorder in which the body produces an increase in male hormones, especially androgen, causing the ovaries to develop small collections of fluid that inhibit the regular release of matured eggs, preventing ovulation and the release of other necessary hormones during the menstrual cycle. This leads to infrequent or prolonged menstrual cycles and, subsequently, difficulty with fertility. Long-term complications include type 2 diabetes and heart
disease. Those suffering from PCOS may also have depression or anxiety.
Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome
- Irregular and prolonged periods.
- Excess production of the male hormone androgen, which causes an increase in body and facial hair, and severe acne.
- Weight gain.
- Enlarged ovaries, which do not function properly.
What causes it?
Women struggling with weight gain, insulin resistance and inflammation may develop PCOS. Insulin that isn’t stored or used correctly in the body builds up and increases the production of the hormone androgen, which can interfere with the menstrual cycle and its hormonal balance, as well as affect the heart and blood vessels.
If your doctor suspects you have PCOS, a medical history of your menstrual cycles and weight and health will be taken into consideration, as well as a physical exam, blood tests and an ultrasound to determine your hormone and
insulin levels and whether there is a build-up around your ovaries and uterine lining. Treatment will include the management of hormone levels through contraceptive pills or alternative hormonal therapy. Maintaining a healthy weight and making necessary lifestyle changes will also have a dramatic impact on controlling the disorder and the development of further medical complications.
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