How Do I Know If I Have PCOS?

There’s no single test that, by itself, shows whether you have polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and give you a physical exam and blood tests to help find out if you have this condition.

PCOS is a common hormone disorder that can cause problems with your period, fertility, weight, and skin. It can also put you at risk for other conditions, such as type 2 diabetes. If you have it, the sooner you find out, the sooner you can start treatment.

What Your Doctor Will ask

Your doctor will want to know about all the signs and symptoms you’ve noticed. This is an important step to help figure out whether you have PCOS, and to rule out other conditions that cause similar symptoms.

You’ll need to answer questions about your family’s medical history, including whether your mother or sister has PCOS or problems getting pregnant. This information is helpful -- PCOS tends to run in families.

Be ready to discuss any period problems you’ve had, weight changes, and other concerns.

Your doctor may diagnose PCOS if you have at least two of these symptoms:

  • Irregular periods
  • Higher levels of androgen (male hormones) shown in blood tests or through symptoms like acne, male-pattern balding, or extra hair growth on your face, chin, or body
  • Cysts in your ovaries as shown in an ultrasound exam

Physical Exam

Your doctor may check your blood pressure, BMI (body mass index), and waist size. She may also look at your skin to check for extra hair growth, acne, and discolored skin, which can all happen if you have PCOS.

Pelvic exam: This is just like what happens when you get a regular checkup. Your doctor will look at and feel areas of your body including the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and rectum, checking for anything unusual.

Pelvic ultrasound (sonogram): This produces an image of what your ovaries look like. For the ultrasound, you lie down and the doctor briefly places an ultrasound device in your vagina. The doctor will check for cysts in your ovaries and how thick the lining is in your uterus. That lining may be thicker than normal if your periods aren’t happening when they’re supposed to.

Your ovaries may be 1½ to 3 times larger than normal when you have PCOS. The ultrasound can show ovary changes in about 90% of women who have PCOS.

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Tests

Blood tests: Your doctor or other health care provider will take a small amount of blood from a vein in your arm. Lab tests will measure the levels of these hormones:

  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) affects your ability to get pregnant. Your level might be lower than normal, or even normal, if you have PCOS.
  • Luteinizing hormone (LH) encourages ovulation. It could be higher than normal.
  • Testosterone is a sex hormone that would be higher in women with PCOS.
  • Estrogens are group of hormones that allow women to get their periods. Your level may be normal or high if you have PCOS.
  • Your level of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) may be lower than normal.
  • A sex hormone called androstenedione may be at a higher-than-normal level.

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG): This is a hormone test that can check to see if you’re pregnant.

Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH): This test can check how well your ovaries are working and to help estimate how far off menopause may be. The levels would be higher with PCOS.

Your doctor may recommend a few more tests to rule out other conditions such as thyroid problems, tumors, and hyperplasia (organ-swelling due to too many cells) that have similar symptoms to PCOS.

After Your Diagnosis

If you have PCOS, you then may get a blood glucose and cholesterol test. Doctors often do these tests to check on your overall health and chance of having other conditions:

Your doctor will work with you to manage your PCOS symptoms and become as healthy as you can be.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH on March 25, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

UpToDate: “Patient Education: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) (Beyond the Basics).”

American Association for Clinical Chemistry: “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome,” “Follicle-Stimulating Hormone,” “Luteinizing hormone,” “Sex Hormone Binding Globulin,” “Androstenedione,” “Anti-Mullerian hormone.”

Hormone Health Network: “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).”

National Institutes of Health: “How Do Health Care Providers Diagnose PCOS?”

Mayo Clinic: “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).”

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.”

National Cancer Institute: “NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Pelvic Ultrasound.”

CDC: “PCOS and Diabetes, Heart Disease, Stroke.”

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