Is it endometriosis or PCOS? Find out the differences in this article

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Often times endometriosis and PCOS can get confused with one another since both of these conditions affect the reproductive system.
 
There is one major difference between endometriosis and PCOS. PCOS is a hormonal condition with excessive androgens known as testosterone. Whereas endometriosis is an inflammatory condition that causes pain.
 
Endometriosis is when the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. Endometrial lesions can be on the uterus, the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, rectum, legs, pelvic area and intestines. This can result in pain not only around your period but also during times of the cycle.
 
When it comes to PCOS, some of the major symptoms include: irregular cycles, weight gain, and symptoms of high testosterone (ie. hair loss, excessive hair growth, and acne).
 
If you were wondering whether you have either PCOS or endometriosis here are some of the major differences we see between the two.
 
As you can see, from the image above, the two conditions are very different but, both can result in long bleeding, spotting, or heavy periods.
When it comes to pain, it is a predominant symptom of endometriosis. There can be pain during periods, urination, bowel movements, and during intercourse. However, in PCOS, pain isn’t as predominant. You can still experience pain around your ovaries and pain due to inflammation, yet it isn’t a defining feature of PCOS. ⁠
Lab testing
 
When it comes to PCOS lab testing, there are many tests to consider. Additionally, a transvaginal ultrasound helps to determine if there are cysts and/or multiple peripheral follicles that surround the ovaries. To see a complete comprehensive list of labs check out this article I wrote.
PCOS vs Endometriosis
Lab work cannot be used for a diagnosis of endometriosis. We know that the gold standard for diagnosing endometriosis is laparoscopic surgery. However, sometimes an ultrasound can show endometriosis in the form of an endometrioma aka chocolate cyst on the ovaries. Even though we cannot use lab work for the diagnosis of endometriosis, lab work identifies inflammation and assesses the immune system. For example, we can test for things like Vitamin D status, HS-CRP, cytokines, and antibodies in the thyroid.
 
Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone can also play a role in endometriosis. We know that estrogen does not cause endometriosis, however, it can stimulate the growth of endometrial lesions.
 
Diet
When it comes to diet, PCOS and endometriosis are treated slightly differently. In terms of PCOS, the main focus is to balance insulin and glucose. On the other hand, with endometriosis one of the biggest areas to focus on is to reduce inflammation. We know that one of the most inflammatory foods to the body is gluten. Other foods that can also impact the body in terms of inflammation when it comes to endometriosis include dairy and eggs.
 
In PCOS, we also want to reduce inflammation however inflammation usually is the result of insulin resistance. So balancing blood sugar is a crucial component when it comes to dietary changes in PCOS.
 
Summary
PCOS and endometriosis can look similar, however, PCOS is a hormonal condition with excessive androgens known as testosterone. Whereas endometriosis is an inflammatory condition that causes pain.
Next Steps

To learn more about PCOS check out these blog posts. 

If you’d like more support, feel free to connect with me here. 

Your PCOS Food Cheat Sheet
This simple PCOS Food Cheat sheet will help get you started on choosing the right foods for your PCOS. Pin it to your fridge or keep it in your phone for easy access when planning your meals!
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