Studies report that around 4-20% of women in their reproductive age struggle with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). The condition is a common hormonal disorder that results in irregular or absent menstrual cycles in women of reproductive age.
Abnormalities in ovarian anatomy and functioning often lead to this complication, especially due to the lack of normal ovulation in the affected women. Although more conclusive studies are needed to pinpoint the causes, researchers consider ovulation disorders as the primary trigger behind the disease.
Since early diagnosis and lifestyle changes can effectively improve the symptoms, knowing about the relevant diagnostic tests for PCOS is important. This article will highlight more on that.
In this Article
- 1 What are the common symptoms of PCOS?
- 2 What are the common causes of PCOS?
- 3 Diagnostic Tests for PCOS
- 4 How do FSH and LH Levels help with PCOS Diagnosis?
- 5 Conclusion
What are the common symptoms of PCOS?
Before your doctors prescribe you a series of diagnostic tests, they will need a rundown of the symptoms you are experiencing. These typically include the following:
Infrequent or irregular periods
Women experiencing infrequent, irregular or absent menstrual cycles need to get tested for PCOS. This can indicate common ovulation disorders that can lead to complications in the future.
Excess androgen production
Elevated levels of androgens, especially testosterone in females, lead to a series of complications, including excess facial hair, acne and signs of male-pattern baldness in women. If you are experiencing any or all of the symptoms, seeking professional help is advised.
What are the common causes of PCOS?
As mentioned, the exact trigger behind PCOS is still not specified. However, researchers have found a group of common symptoms that contribute to the condition.
Excess insulin production
One of the most common triggers of PCOS is insulin resistance, caused by excess insulin production in the bloodstream. Insulin resistance has a direct correlation with excess androgen production in the body.
Inflammation in the body
Chronic inflammation contributes to the symptoms of PCOS in women. Much like excess insulin, low-grade inflammation also contributes to excess androgen production in the bloodstream, leading to ovulation disorders and symptoms of PCOS.
Certain gene composition has a connection with PCOS symptoms in women. Acanthosis nigricans is also a common symptom.
Diagnostic Tests for PCOS
An early diagnosis for PCOS, paired with lifestyle changes and good dietary modifications, can reduce the symptoms and regulate the condition in the affected women. However, there are no medical tests that directly diagnose PCOS.
After listening to the symptoms and doing a routine physical test, your doctor will then move on to prescribe the associated tests to ascertain whether you have the common triggers that lead to PCOS.
The testing choices are divided into three parts:
- Physical examination
- Blood tests
- Radiology and imaging
Let us walk you through each of them in detail.
The doctor conducts a pelvic exam as part of the physical examination. This is a primary diagnostic measure and isn’t the most accurate one. However, a routine pelvic examination can look into possible risks of growth and masses in the reproductive anatomy of the female patient.
When talking about diagnostic tests for PCOS, this takes up most of it. The doctor prescribes various blood tests pertaining to hormonal balance and the reproductive functioning in the patient to check for complications.
Some of the most PCOS blood test include:
- Thyroid function tests, including TSH, free thyroxine
- Serum prolactin
- Testosterone levels (total and free)
- Androgen index
- Serum hCG levels
- Cosyntropin stimulation test
- Urinary free cortisol (UFC)
- Serum insulin-like growth factor (IGF)–1 level
- FSH and LH levels
- Glucose levels
- Insulin levels
- Lipid profile
- Fasting cholesterol
These are some of the most common blood tests associated with PCOS diagnosis. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor will prescribe all or a few from the list.
Radiology and imaging
Since PCOS is marked by the development of fluid-filled cysts in the ovaries, ultrasound imaging is a must. This allows the doctors to check the anatomy of the ovary and the degree of cysts inside the ovaries. A transvaginal ultrasound is quite common for PCOS diagnosis.
The ovaries can be enlarged or have excess antral follicles in the ultrasound imaging. This gives a more precise understanding of the complication and the next line of treatment to rectify the complications.
Besides these standard tests, your doctor might suggest getting tested for other complications, including tests for:
- Blood pressure
- Glucose tolerance
- Cholesterol levels
- Sleep apnea
These are commonly associated complications that arise with PCOS, so getting routine screenings can prevent further deterioration and complications in the body.
How do FSH and LH Levels help with PCOS Diagnosis?
FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone) severely impact the woman’s reproductive function.
An abnormal FSH to LH ratio indicates signs of PCOS. The LH FSH ratio should be in a 1:1 ratio for normal ovulation and menstrual cycles. So, any drastic abnormalities in the ratio can indicate possibilities of PCOS in the patient.
However, there are PCOS patients with normal and stable FSH and LH levels in the bloodstream. This indicates that determining the ratio of just these two hormones isn’t enough for a complete diagnosis.
PCOS management is reliant on earlier diagnosis and lifestyle changes. So, if you experience anything amiss with your menstrual cycles or overall health, consider consulting a doctor immediately. Earlier diagnosis can help manage the symptoms better and reverse the complications of PCOS, especially infertility.