Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders in women. PCOS has been recognized and diagnosed for seventy-five years but has not gotten the awareness it deserves, even in the medical community. It is believed that 5-10% of women of childbearing age are affected by PCOS, with less than 50% of women diagnosed. Studies have found that if a mother has PCOS, there is a 50% chance that her daughter will have it as well. So with much education to be done, we are doing our part to raise awareness this month during September 2013 PCOS awareness month!
What are some of the warning signs of PCOS?
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Hirsutism- excess hair growth on face and body
- Darkened patches of skin
- Multiple follicles (cysts) on the ovaries
- Increase in stress levels
- High blood pressure
- Skin tags
- Thinning hair (male pattern balding)
- Pelvic pain
- Decreased sex drive
Early detection is important to avoid complications associated with the syndrome such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, sleep apnea, and more devastating, suffering from infertility or miscarriages. Symptoms vary from woman to woman and no ONE test can diagnose this syndrome making it complicated or time consuming to come to a conclusion. Some of these symptoms may be “normal” for you or unrelated to PCOS.
So how can you find out if you have PCOS? You should talk to your physician (Family physician, OB/GYN, Endocrinologist, or Reproductive Endocrinologist) about your concerns. If they are unfamiliar with the condition you may contact the CPOS foundation or view their find a doctor web page that is due to launch fall 2013.
These are the things you should expect from your appointments with the physician:
Medical History and Consultation
Before your visit, if meeting a new specialist, collect your medical records from previous doctor’s visits including blood tests, progress notes, ultrasounds, surgical reports. (Your new doctors office may be able to collect them for you if you sign a release.) Write down and share details about your menstrual cycles, pregnancy history or infertility, weight changes, sleep patterns, fatigue, depression. Make sure you know these details of women in your family as well. As always, take a list of medications you are taking and all of the question you may have.
Your physician’s exam will include measuring your blood pressure, weight, and identifying your body mass index (BMI). They will examine your body for any signs and symptoms such as hair growth, skin discoloration, skin tags, acne and thinning hair.
Your physician will usually order a variety of tests, some of which include testosterone, DHEA and fasting glucose.
Your physician should perform a pelvic ultrasound. This ultrasound is typically performed by a Reproductive Endocrinologist, qualified OB/GYN, or a specialty hospital or imaging center. This test is performed to take images of the endometrial lining and look for multiple cysts.