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Women's Health

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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) - Topic Overview

To diagnose PCOS, the doctor will:

  • Ask questions about your past health, symptoms, and menstrual cycles.
  • 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).
  • Do a number of lab tests to check your blood sugar, insulin, and other hormone levels. Hormone tests can help rule out thyroid or other gland problems that could cause similar symptoms.

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 him or her rule out other problems.

Regular exercise, healthy foods, and weight control are the key treatments for PCOS. Treatment can reduce unpleasant symptoms and help prevent long-term health problems.

  • Try to fit in moderate activity and/or vigorous activity often. Walking is a great exercise that most people can do.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods. This includes lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and whole grains. It limits foods that are high in saturated fat, such as meats, cheeses, and fried foods.
  • Most women who have PCOS can benefit from losing weight. Even losing 10 lb (4.5 kg) may help get your hormones in balance and regulate your menstrual cycle.
  • If you smoke, consider quitting. Women who smoke have higher androgen levels that may contribute to PCOS symptoms.1

Your doctor also may prescribe birth control pills to reduce symptoms, metformin to help you have regular menstrual cycles, or fertility medicines if you are having trouble getting pregnant.

It is important to see your doctor for follow-up to make sure that treatment is working and to adjust it if needed. You may also need regular tests to check for diabetes, high blood pressure, and other possible problems.

It may take a while for treatments to help with symptoms such as facial hair or acne. You can use over-the-counter or prescription medicines for acne.

It can be hard to deal with having PCOS. If you are feeling sad or depressed, it may help to talk to a counselor or to other women who have PCOS.

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