PCOS- How do I know if I have it? (Part 2 of 3)

As mentioned in my previous post, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an illness affecting women that I commonly see in my family practice office.

The name PCOS comes from the fact that ultrasound imaging of the ovaries of PCOS patients often show small cysts. The cysts result from incomplete ovulation (release of an egg from the ovary). The reason cysts form is because of hormone imbalances in the body. These cysts, in turn, cause over production of male hormones that are normally produced in small amounts and can lead to other symptoms like acne, excessive hair growth and blood sugar dysregulation.

We do not know why PCOS occurs (may be partly due to genetics) and there is no ‘cure’ for PCOS but there are things we can do to help manage the symptoms. Tests that we do to confirm a diagnosis of PCOS may include:

  1. A visit with your doctor- the doctor will discuss with you about your cycles (which is why it’s a good idea to keep track of your periods with an app or calendar), family history, weight changes, eating habits, other medical illnesses etc. Your doc may also do a simple physical examination to see the extent of other symptoms like hair growth or acne.
  2. Blood tests- the doctor may request blood tests to check your hormone levels, and also other tests such as thyroid test, blood sugar and cholesterol levels to make sure the symptoms are not caused by something else or affecting other body functions.
  3. Ultrasound- a transvaginal ultrasound (where a wand-like device is placed in the vagina) may be done to check the lining of your uterus and also for the appearance of your ovaries.

There are different concerns that we have in different age groups so tests will be personalised for your individual needs. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your doc!

 

Stay tuned for my next entry about things you can do to help with PCOS symptoms!

Dr. Charmaine Ma, BSc(Pharm), MD, Dip Fam Med (HK), CCFP