BContributed by – Rachana Arya
What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
For most women, the onset of menarche (onset of menstruation) is a milestone in their lives, as it denotes the start of reproductive capacity. But for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the transition from childhood to adulthood may not go smoothly and could signal bigger problems. If left untreated, PCOS can lead to severe clinical problems with diabetes and heart disease, so it is important to understand PCOS.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a very common hormonal condition where multiple cysts develop on the ovaries and there is an abnormal balance of sex hormones including oestrogen and testosterone. It is primarily characterized by irregular periods, weight gain, and fertility problems. However, there is another problem which could complicate your health – insulin resistance, which could lead to Type 2 diabetes in the long run. The exact causes of PCOS are unknown, however, hormonal imbalances are known to be partly responsible. In addition, there’s quite a bit of evidence to suggest that diet, lifestyle and genetics pre-disposes you towards PCOS.
Who should get a PCOS test?
Not a trivial question. Being treated for PCOS can safeguard your life, so it’s important to spot the signs of PCOS, which can vary quite a bit from woman to woman. While some women with PCOS have several unexplained and bothersome manifestations of this metabolic dysfunction, others may have just two or three symptoms. Polycystic ovary syndrome is diagnosed during the reproductive years when women present at least two of the three symptoms:
- Infrequent, irregular, or prolonged menstrual cycles
- High levels of androgens or ‘male’ hormones
- Multiple cysts on one or both ovaries
Why is the PCOS test needed?
Various studies indicate links between PCOS and other health problems. Complications include:
- High blood pressure
- Unhealthy cholesterol
- Sleep apnea
- Depression and anxiety
- Endometrial cancer
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Miscarriage or premature birth
How is the PCOS test done?
There is no single test to determine whether you have polycystic ovary syndrome – rather than another condition that can trigger similar signs and symptoms. So, to diagnose the condition, doctors rely on a combination of clinical findings such as:
- medical and family history
- a physical exam that includes a pelvic exam, and
- blood tests to measure hormone, cholesterol, and glucose levels
Besides, other frequently ordered hormone tests to check and monitor your general health and detect any complications that might develop include lipid panel, prolactin, TSH, DHEAS, fasting blood sugar and insulin levels.
What does a PCOS test result mean?
- A pelvic exam identifies irregularities in the ovaries or other parts of your reproductive tract. During this manual test, your doctor inserts gloved fingers into your vagina and check for any growths in your ovaries or uterus.
- Blood tests identify higher-than-normal levels of androgens or male hormones. Some of the tests include:
- Testosterone (total and free)
- Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG)
- Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH)
- A pelvic ultrasound identifies abnormal follicles and other problems with your ovaries and uterus with the help of sound waves.
- A transvaginal ultrasound detects the appearance of the ovary, particularly in obese patients. This is considered the gold standard due to the optimal visualization.
To conclude, it is important to remember that PCOS is a multifaceted disorder with lifelong complications, the consequences of which extend beyond the reproductive axis. That being said, the way forward is to monitor and manage your emotional well-being and to work on improving your lifestyle to your best ability and capacity.
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