How Is PCOS Diagnosed?
June 13, 2022

How Is PCOS Diagnosed?

Early diagnosis is critical for preventing symptoms from worsening, reversing symptoms and receiving the best care possible. Read on to learn about the steps involved in a proper PCOS diagnosis.

There is no single "correct" way to diagnose PCOS, also known as polycystic ovary syndrome. Your doctor may recommend a battery of diagnostic tests. If you have PCOS symptoms or suffer from hormonal imbalances, it's important that you undergo the necessary tests. This is because PCOS can be a very complex issue, and some women with the condition may not exhibit all the classic signs and symptoms.

Before looking into various PCOS treatment options, you should consult your healthcare provider if you suspect that you have or are at risk of polycystic ovary syndrome. They are knowledgeable and skilled in different testing procedures that will determine whether you have PCOS or not.

What are the telltale signs of PCOS?

PCOS symptoms typically appear during puberty, with some patients being diagnosed with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, though symptoms can appear in your 20s or even later. You may want to see your healthcare provider if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Irregular ovulation
  • Irregular periods or menstrual cycles
  • Acne
  • Scalp hair loss
  • Excessive hair growth on face and body
  • Weight gain or severity of obesity
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Increased abdominal fat

Unwanted body hair growth or excess facial hair can be a sign of other medical conditions, so it's critical that you get tested to determine whether or not PCOS is the culprit. Because this condition contributes to low pregnancy rates, more than 84 percent of women with PCOS seek fertility treatment to help them conceive safely and successfully.

What tests are used to diagnose PCOS?

As part of the PCOS diagnosis, your healthcare provider will review your medical history and perform a physical examination to assess your symptoms, weight and body mass index. To confirm their findings, they may order for the following diagnostic procedures:

  • Blood tests to check hormone levels, such as testosterone or androgen levels.
  • Pelvic ultrasound is an imaging test that uses sound waves to create pictures of the ovaries. Examining your ovaries on ultrasound helps your healthcare provider detect any abnormalities, particularly polycystic ovaries.
  • Pelvic exam allows a doctor to examine the uterus to look for any abnormal growths or signs of endometrial cancer.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test checks for insulin resistance.
  • Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure in which a small camera is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision. This allows the doctor to get a closer look at your ovaries and check for any abnormalities.

Are there natural ways to diagnose PCOS?

Although professional health examinations, such as blood tests, are ideal to determine whether or not you have PCOS, being observant of your own body and recording any changes that occur can help to understand the symptoms of this condition.

Take notice of your menstrual cycles, sudden weight gain, scalp hair loss, or unwanted hair growth on different parts of your body. Abnormal androgen levels increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, or any other cardiovascular disease, as well as other health conditions, such as endocrine disorders, high blood pressure, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes and uterine cancer.

Keeping your health in check and keeping track of any unusual changes is important for PCOS. Catching this prevalent disorder in its early stages will help you to identify the best treatment option for you.

What are the treatments for PCOS?

Once PCOS is diagnosed, there are several treatment options available. The most common treatments include lifestyle modification, insulin-sensitising drugs and birth control pills to regulate periods and control hair growth or acne. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove polycystic ovaries or fallopian tubes.

Ovulation induction treatments and other advanced infertility therapies help to promote pregnancy in women with PCOS and prevent potential birth defects.

As well as traditional medical treatments, lifestyle medicine is first-line therapy for treating PCOS. This involves positive lifestyle change such as nutrition optimisation, regular exercise, sleep optimisation, mental health treatment and much more.

If you're keen on reversing the symptoms of PCOS, you should see a healthcare provider who specialises in lifestyle medicine. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through evidence-based weight loss and lifestyle programs is key to managing, if not completely reversing, the ill effects of PCOS and living a more fulfilling life.

Dr Michelle Woolhouse

Integrative GP and Vively Medical Director

Dr Michelle Woolhouse is an integrative GP, with over 20 years experience treating chronic conditions through lifestyle medicine