Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) - Diagnosis

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What were the events, tests, and exams that led to a diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome?

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How is PCOS diagnosed?

The PCOS diagnosis is generally made through clinical signs and symptoms. The doctor will want to exclude other illnesses that have similar features, such as low thyroid hormone blood levels (hypothyroidism) or elevated levels of a milk-producing hormone (prolactin). Also, tumors of the ovary or adrenal glands can produce elevated male hormone (androgen) blood levels that cause acne or excess hair growth, mimicking symptoms of PCOS.

Other laboratory tests can be helpful in making the diagnosis of PCOS. Serum levels of male hormones ( DHEA and testosterone ) may be elevated. However, levels of testosterone that are highly elevated are not unusual with PCOS and call for additional evaluation. Additionally, levels of a hormone released by the pituitary gland in the brain (LH) that is involved in ovarian hormone production are elevated.

The cysts (fluid filled sacs) in the ovaries can be identified with imaging technology. (However, as noted above, women without PCOS can have many cysts as well.) Ultrasound , which passes sound waves through the body to create a picture of the kidneys, is used most often to look for cysts in the ovaries. Ultrasound imaging employs no injected dyes or radiation and is safe for all patients including pregnant women. It can also detect cysts in the kidneys of a fetus. Because women without PCOS can have ovarian cysts , and because ovarian cysts are not part of the definition of PCOS, ultrasound is not routinely ordered to diagnose PCOS. The diagnosis is usually a clinical one based on the patient's history, physical examination, and laboratory testing.

More powerful and expensive imaging methods such as computed tomography (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) also can detect cysts, but they are generally reserved for situations in which other conditions that may cause related symptoms, such as ovarian or adrenal gland tumors are suspected. CT scans require X-rays and sometimes injected dyes, which can be associated with some degree of complications in certain patients.

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Comment from: not a happy mum, 19-24 Female (Patient) Published: May 15

I had irregular periods and went to doctor, where I was told I was given blood tests and a scan. These show that I have PCOS. I am not happy about this, as my two kids want a brother or sister. I really feel like I need a third child and don't know what to do.

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