Terms that start with D are designed to be dramatic. Death. Disease. Demonetisation. Donald Trump. Full points for drama. None for disappointment. Okay, we’ll stop with the D-words now.
Except one. Disease. This dreaded word has been used to label a term that has become exceedingly common across the globe, and one that affects one in five women. It’s known as Polycystic Ovarian Disease. But the question is, is it really a disease?
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What is Polycystic Ovarian Disease?
Polycystic Ovarian Disease, otherwise known as PCOD is the manifestation of certain symptoms in women, because of an increase in androgen levels. Androgens or male hormones typically exist in every woman, but it’s when the hormonal composition is skewed in their favour, that PCOD is triggered.
Doctors haven’t yet discovered what causes PCOD, though genetic and lifestyle factors have been known to play a large role.
PCOD can result in irregular or missed periods, a rapid increase in weight and excessive facial and body hair. It earns its name from the tiny cysts that form on a woman’s ovaries because of a hormonal shift. But aside from its cosmetic implications, PCOD can also pose as a barrier to fertility, and lead to heart disease and diabetes.
PCOD has been recognised as the most common endocrine disorder, affecting about one-fifth of menstruating women.
How Do You define a Disease?
So back to the question at hand. Is Polycystic Ovarian Disease really a disease? To answer that, we’ll really have to understand what ‘disease’ means.
The Oxford Dictionary defines disease as “A disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.” And while a disorder can be categorised as a disease, a disease isn’t necessarily a disorder.
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So, Is PCOD a Disease?
Over the past few decades, ‘disease’, as a term, has been used rather loosely to lend body to a disorder. It somehow makes it more relevant and credible. ‘You’ve been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Disease’ sounds more authentic than ‘Your ovaries aren’t functioning quite right.’
PCOD isn’t really a disease. It is a disorder. And though it can’t be cured like a cold or a sore throat, it can be controlled through lifestyle changes. Exercise and a healthy diet are a winning combination for PCOD. Adding more vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains to your diet can heal your body. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to better your glucose absorption (PCOD can lead to diabetes, if not controlled) and to revive your menstrual cycle.
How Do I Know I Have PCOD?
PCOD is an uncomplicated condition to diagnose. Your doctor will first check for physical evidence, such as excessive facial hair and acne. Your body mass index will also be considered, to check whether you are at a healthy weight. If your doctor suspects PCOD, you may also be asked to undergo lab tests to check your hormone and insulin levels.
Essentially, your doctor will give you a PCOD diagnosis if you have any two of the following three symptoms:
- Your androgen levels are higher than normal, causing excessive facial hair and acne
- Your menstrual cycle is either irregular or absent
- Your ovaries are polycystic because there are more than 12 follicles on anyone ovary, or one or both ovaries is enlarged
Should I Worry If I Have PCOD?
With the right lifestyle modifications, and possibly some prescribed medication, PCOD is completely manageable. You shouldn’t worry if you have been told that you have the condition. It doesn’t affect your longevity or quality of life. And when you do plan on starting a family, there are enough technological tools that can help you conceive.
Fewer people would worry if ‘disease’ was knocked off from Polycystic Ovarian Disease. Now that you know what the condition is, and what it does, rename it in your head.
Or better still, forget that it even has a name. It doesn’t deserve the drama and you don’t deserve the stress!
Must Read: How Does PCOS Affect Your Body?