How Is PCOS Diagnosed?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that can cause irregular periods, acne, excessive body hair, and infertility.
Diagnosing PCOS is the first step to treating the disorder and its symptoms. A PCOS diagnosis and treatment plan can also help some women overcome their struggles to conceive.
There isn’t a single test for PCOS. Instead several examinations are performed when diagnosing PCOS at the Los Angeles Reproductive Center. Serving Encino, CA, Bakersfield, CA, Los Angeles, CA, and surrounding areas, Dr. Marc Kalan and Dr. Nurit Winkler are available to help you with your fertility needs.
What Is PCOS?
PCOS is a reproductive hormonal disorder that causes varied symptoms in women, including irregular periods, insulin resistance, growth of body hair, acne, hair loss, and infertility.
Women with PCOS sometimes do not have enough of the necessary reproductive hormones to ovulate. When ovulation, or the release of an egg from an ovary, doesn’t occur, cysts can form on the ovaries. As cysts form, they cause the level of androgens, a type of male sex hormone, to increase.
High levels of androgens can cause women with PCOS to have irregular menstrual cycles, excess body hair, acne, or infertility.
How Is PCOS Diagnosed?
Diagnosing PCOS often begins with a review of the patient’s symptoms, medications, and relevant medical history.
Because PCOS can cause irregular menstrual periods, patients should be prepared to discuss their menstrual cycle. It’s helpful to take note of such things as the frequency of menstrual periods, how often they occur, and any other menstrual irregularities.
In addition to a review of symptoms and medical history, one or more of the following exams may be performed to diagnose PCOS.
A physical exam may be performed to look for visible signs of PCOS such as acne, excess hair growth, and weight gain.
A pelvic exam may be performed to check the reproductive organs for signs of PCOS including masses, growths, or other abnormalities.
Blood tests are administered to evaluate the patient’s hormone levels as PCOS can cause hormonal imbalances. A glucose tolerance test may also be given to assess how well the body uses insulin in processing sugar. Problems with insulin and processing sugar can also be an indicator of PCOS.
An ultrasound exam is commonly performed when diagnosing PCOS to visually evaluate the ovaries. Using ultrasound, it’s possible to see cysts and other abnormalities in the ovaries as well as the thickness of the uterus lining common to PCOS.
Criteria for Diagnosis
In order to be diagnosed for PCOS, patients must experience at least two of the three following criteria:
- Ovulatory dysfunction: Ovulatory dysfunction includes irregularities in the menstrual cycle. This can include menstrual cycles that are longer than 35 days or the absence of menstruation.
- Polycystic ovaries: To be considered a polycystic ovary, an ovary must have 12 or more follicles measuring a certain size or the ovary itself must be enlarged.
- Hyperandrogenism: Hyperandrogenism refers to a higher than normal level of androgen hormones. Hyperandrogenism may be recognized by excessive body hair in such areas as the upper lip, back and chest, and acne or through blood tests.
Treatment for PCOS must be tailored to each patient to meet their unique needs. For some, maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise may be enough to manage their symptoms.
Those who have had difficulty becoming pregnant due to lack of ovulation may take medications to overcome hormone irregularities and stimulate ovulation.
Those who aren’t trying to become pregnant may benefit from birth control pills to help regulate their hormone levels.
Schedule a Consultation
If you think you have PCOS and would like more information about diagnosing this condition, or if you have other questions about reproductive health, call the Los Angeles Reproductive Center at (818) 946-8051 to schedule a consultation.