The common hormonal disorder polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects many women of reproductive age. It occurs when the woman’s adrenal glands or ovaries produce more-than-normal male hormones and can lead to a small cyst forming in the ovary, disrupting hormonal balance. Women with PCOS have a hormonal balance and problems with their metabolism.
Of women of childbearing years, one in every 10 women are affected by polycystic ovary syndrome.
Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Symptoms of PCOS include:
Excessive body or facial hair
Irregular menstrual periods (they occur infrequently or last a long time)
Absent or infrequent adolescent menstruation
Unexplained weight gain or obesity
Pregnancy-related issues like miscarriage, difficulty becoming pregnant or infertility
Diagnosing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Doctors check for three features characteristic of PCOS. These are:
- High levels of androgens
- The absence of ovulation
- Cysts on the ovaries
When you have one or more of these characteristic features, doctors usually give a PCOS diagnosis. Your doctor will also rule out other problems and conditions that could cause the same types of symptoms.
Some conditions they might rule out include:
Problems with thyroid gland function
Hyperplasia (excess adrenal gland hormone production)
Hyperprolactinemia (excess pituitary gland production of the prolactin hormone)
After your doctor rules out other conditions, they’ll perform several other things before giving you an official PCOS diagnosis. These include:
Take Blood Samples
Your doctor will check your blood sugar, cholesterol and androgen levels.
Obtain your Family History
Your doctor will inquire about your infertility history and menstrual cycle. They’ll also inquire about any family members with PCOS, if it runs in your family or if any family members share the same symptoms as you.
Perform a Physical Exam
Your doctor will perform a full physical exam to check for things like:
Extra hair growth
Other signs of high androgen hormone levels
They’ll also measure your waist, take your blood pressure and measure your body fat according to your weight and height.
Perform an Ultrasound or Pelvic Exam to Check your Ovaries
Your doctor will check for cysts on your ovaries during your pelvic exam. They may also suggest an ultrasound to see if they can spot any ovary cysts. They’ll check if your periods are irregular and how thick your uterus lining is.
If you’re concerned about your menstrual period, have signs of excess androgen like acne, hirsutism or male-pattern baldness or are experiencing infertility, see your doctor.