How do doctors diagnose polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?
Your doctor may suspect you have this syndrome if you have eight periods per year or less, excess body hair, hormonal irregularities, high blood sugar, androgenic hair loss, acne, or irregular periods. After obtaining a clinical history that suggests PCOS, the doctor will rule out other diseases that could cause similar symptoms. Some of these diseases include:
- Excessive production of hormones by the adrenal glands, called adrenal hyperplasia
- Problems with the function of the thyroid gland
- Surplus / over production of prolactin hormone by the pituitary gland, known as hyperprolactinemia
Complete family history
The doctor will ask about your menstrual cycle and about any history of infertility. The doctor will also ask if your mother or sister has PCOS or symptoms similar to yours, since PCOS is usually hereditary.
Complete physical examination
The doctor will perform a physical exam and look for excessive growth of hair, acne or other signs of high androgen levels. He/she will take your blood pressure, measure your waist and calculate your body mass index, a measure of your body fat that is calculated from weight and height.
The doctor will check the levels of androgens, cholesterol and blood sugar.
Pelvic exam or ultrasound to check the ovaries
During the pelvic exam, the doctor will insert two fingers into your vagina and put pressure on your abdomen to feel for ovarian cysts. To help see ovarian cysts, the doctor may recommend an ultrasound, a test that uses sound waves to obtain images of the pelvic area. Your doctor will also check the thickness of the lining of the uterus; If your periods are irregular, the lining of the uterus may be thicker than normal.
A woman who has at least two of the following three problems may have a diagnosis of PCOS:
- The long-term absence of ovulation (the process of ovum ovule release) that causes menstrual irregularities
- High levels of androgens that are not the result of other causes or diseases or signs of high androgen levels, such as excess facial or body hair
- More than 12 cysts of a specific size in one or both ovaries (detected by ultrasound)
Some women with a diagnosis of PCOS have the first two symptoms but do not have ovarian cysts
Stay tuned for next week’s installment: Treatment and Management
This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not medical advice and should not be used to replace the advice of a trained physician. If you have any suspicion that the information in this article may apply to you, be sure to contact your doctor for more details!
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