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PCOS And Endo Can Both Mess With Your Period, But They’re Totally Different Conditions

From Women’s Health

In the world of reproductive conditions that can be tough to diagnose, two tend to get the most attention: polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis. While you’ve probably at least heard of both of these conditions, you might be fuzzy on the details. And, with that, it’s easy to confuse the two.

It’s important to know that it’s not rare to have either one of these health issues. “These are two relatively common gynecological conditions,” says Taraneh Shirazian, MD, an ob-gyn with NYU Langone Health. PCOS affects one in 10 women of childbearing age, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health (OWH). Endometriosis is slightly more common, impacting more than 11 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44, according to the OWH.

Both conditions are notoriously tough to diagnose, given that their symptoms could be caused by a range of different issues, says Jessica Shepherd, MD, an ob-gyn in Texas. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible for a doctor to make the right diagnosis—it just can take a little more time and detective work than with some other conditions.

But, while both PCOS and endometriosis have some characteristics and symptoms in common, they’re not the same. “They’re very distinct, different conditions,” Dr. Shirazian notes. Here’s what you need to know about the differences between PCOS and endometriosis.

What exactly is PCOS?

What it is: PCOS is a health problem caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones, the OWH says. That hormonal imbalance creates problems in the ovaries, which make an egg that’s released each month as part of a menstrual cycle. When you have PCOS, the egg might be develop the way it should or it might not be released during ovulation, the OWH says.

The most common symptoms:

  • Irregular periods

  • Excess hair growth on the face, chest, abdomen, or upper thighs

  • Severe acne, or acne that doesn’t respond to typical treatments

  • Oily skin

  • Patches of thick, velvety, darkened skin

  • Ovarian cysts

What is endometriosis?

What it is: Endometriosis, also commonly referred to as simply “endo,” happens when the endometrium, the tissue that normally lines the uterus, grows outside of the uterus and on other areas in your body where it doesn’t belong, according to the OWH. Endometriosis tissue growth is most commonly found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, tissues that hold the uterus in place, and the outer surface of the uterus, although it can also show up on the vagina, cervix, vulva, bowel, bladder, or rectum, too.

Endometriosis implants respond to changes in the female hormone estrogen, and the implants may grow and bleed like the uterine lining does during your period, ACOG says. That can cause the surrounding tissue to become irritated, inflamed, and swollen.

The most common symptoms:

  • Chronic pelvic pain, especially before and during your period

  • Pain during sex

  • Pain when you poop

  • Pain when you pee

  • Heavy bleeding during your period

Worth noting: Many women with endometriosis

Pantone’s Color of Menstruation? Period Red

Pantone, the color registry company, has introduced a new shade — Period red — that it hopes will get people talking about a part of life that often goes unmentioned.

By focusing on menstruation, Pantone said, it wants to overturn a taboo and draw attention to a regular life phase with a color that is “energizing” and “dynamic.”

Period red “emboldens people who menstruate to feel proud of who they are,” said Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute. She added that the goal was “to urge everyone, regardless of gender, to feel comfortable to talk spontaneously and openly about this pure and natural bodily function.”

The announcement is partly a marketing stunt: Pantone has teamed up with the Swedish feminine products brand Intimina, and the brand’s Seen+Heard campaign, to help make periods just a regular part of everyday life.

But there’s no arguing that attitudes toward menstruation are outdated: The average woman has her period for 2,535 days of her life, yet it continues to be a barrier to women’s equality. In some parts of the world, women still face discrimination, miss school to manage their periods and lack clean, safe products and lavatory facilities.

And periods don’t stop for pandemics. As the coronavirus crisis ravaged global supply chains and disrupted work and social lives, women and girls around the world were struggling to find basic essentials like pads and tampons.

In recent years, businesses and governments have taken steps to combat the stigma. Zomato, an Indian food-delivery firm with 4,000 workers in 24 countries, introduced a paid period leave policy in August for employees dealing with cramps and stomach pains brought on by menstruation. In 2018, Scotland became the first country to provide free sanitary products to students at schools, colleges and universities, so girls and women will no longer have to miss studies because they cannot afford sanitary products. In early 2020, the British government followed suit.

According to Plan International UK, a girls’ rights charity, one in 10 girls in Britain cannot afford sanitary wear, and nearly half of girls ages 14 to 21 are embarrassed by their periods.

Menstrual equity is a political movement as well as a marketing effort. There are longstanding calls to abolish what is known as the “tampon tax,” or sales tax on sanitary products, in places across the United States.

Pantone is one of the most influential organizations in color forecasting and in savvy marketing, experts say, with its annual color of the year. In 2019, the pick was a “classic blue” to mirror the world’s collective anxiety and stress.

On Twitter, Period red and the statement behind it were met with praise by some and derided as virtue-signaling by others. And some raised concerns about the color match. “I’m all for ending period taboos,” one user said, “but I don’t think painting your walls Manchester United red is really the answer.”

Zareen Ahmed, founder of the Gift Wellness Foundation, a charity in Britain that provides sanitary