What are the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?
Symptoms of PCOS usually start gradually. They may include acne and oily skin, weight gain and trouble losing weight, extra hair on the face and body, thinning hair on the scalp, irregular periods, problems getting pregnant, and depression. PCOS may be more noticeable after a weight gain.
How is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) diagnosed?
No single test can show that you have PCOS. To diagnose PCOS, the doctor will:
- Ask questions about your past health, symptoms, and menstrual cycles. Your doctor may ask you about changes in your weight, skin, hair, and menstrual cycle. He or she may also ask you about problems with getting pregnant, medicines you take, and your eating and exercise habits.
- Do a physical exam to look for signs of PCOS, such as extra body hair and high blood pressure. The doctor will also check your height and weight to see if you have a healthy body mass index (BMI). The exam also checks your thyroid gland, skin, breasts, and belly. You will have a blood pressure check and a pelvic exam to find out if you have enlarged or abnormal ovaries.
You may have blood tests to check for:
- Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), to find out if you are pregnant.
- Testosterone, an androgen. Androgens at high levels can block ovulation and cause acne, male-type hair growth on the face and body, and hair loss from the scalp.
- Prolactin, which can play a part in a lack of menstrual cycles or infertility.
- Cholesterol and triglycerides, which can be at unhealthy levels with PCOS.
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to check for an overactive or underactive thyroid.
- Adrenal gland hormones, such as DHEA-S or 17-hydroxyprogesterone. An adrenal problem can cause symptoms much like PCOS.
- Glucose tolerance and insulin levels, which can show insulin resistance.
You may also have a pelvic ultrasound to look for cysts on your ovaries. Your doctor may be able to tell you that you have PCOS without an ultrasound, but this test will help rule out other problems.
How is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) treated?
Regular exercise, healthy foods, and weight control are the key treatments for PCOS. Your doctor may prescribe birth control pills to reduce symptoms and help regulate your periods, or fertility medicines for problems getting pregnant. Treatment can reduce symptoms and help prevent long-term health problems.