How is PCOS diagnosed? Learn more about PCOS blood test.

Did you know that nearly 70% of women suffer from PCOS problem during their lifetime?

PCOS – Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome is a medical condition that occurs mainly due to the imbalance of hormones.  Women, whose bodies produce higher than normal male hormone, androgen, suffer from PCOS. The imbalance of hormones results in non regulation of ovulation cycle resulting in irregular menstrual cycle.

Ovaries produce important hormones related to reproductive cycle in a woman’s body – estrogen and progesterone. Along with these two, they also produce a very small amount of androgen. In women who are suffering from PCOS problem, more amount of androgen is produced and lesser amounts of estrogen and progesterone is produced.  In normal women, ovaries release a ‘sac’ that contains a matured egg that can meet with a sperm and fertilize. In women with PCOS, many small fluid filled ‘sacs’ grow inside the ovaries and these sacs have immature egg that cannot fertilize.

Main symptoms of PCOS are:

  1. Cysts in ovaries
  2. High levels of androgen, the male hormone. (This can result in growth of acne, facial and body hair).
  3. Irregular periods.

How is PCOS diagnosed?

Diagnosis of PCOS problem starts with discussing the symptoms that the patient is having at the time when she meets her gynaecologist. If the gynaecologist suspects PCOS, he/she may start with pelvic exam.

  1. Pelvic Exam – Gynecologists checks the ovaries and uterus (by inserting gloved fingers into the vagina) to look for any abnormal growths or lumps.
  2. Blood Test – Since the women with PCOS are expected to have higher than normal levels of androgen, blood test can give the accurate levels of androgen and other hormone levels in the body. Other blood tests to check glucose tolerance, cholesterol levels may also be requested.
  3. Transvaginal Ultrasound – An ultrasound device will be inserted into the vagina that emits ultrasound waves. The device converts the reflected ultrasound waves into images and sends it to the display. Using this device, the gynaecologist will be able to see the interiors of the uterus and appearance of ovaries.

If the doctor diagnoses as PCOS, regular tests may be recommended that may include:

  1. Regular blood pressure checks, Glucose tolerance and cholesterol level tests.
  2. Screening for depression and anxiety symptoms
  3. Screening for obstructive sleep apnoea.

Blood tests for women suffering from PCOS

Primary tests:

  1. Testing for androgen or testosterone levels – In women with PCOS, the levels of androgen would be higher than normal.
  2. SHBG – Sex Hormone Binding Globulin – lower than normal levels can be seen
  3. AMH – Anti Mullerian Hormone – elevated levels of AMH can be seen.

Secondary tests:

  1. FSH – Follicle Stimulating Hormones – low to normal levels
  2. Luteinizing Hormones – Elevated
  3. Estrogens – Normal to Elevated
  4. DHEAS – Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate – may be elevated
  5. Androstenedione – may be elevated

Other tests to rule out PCOS may be done if the doctor is unable to confirm PCOS. Such tests include TSH (thyroid hormone levels), Cortisol levels, prolactin etc.

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