What Is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

Diagnosing PCOS

Unfortunately, there is no single test that can be done to diagnose PCOS. Your healthcare provider will use several steps in making this diagnosis and try to determine whether there is something else that might be causing your symptoms.
First, your healthcare provider will obtain a thorough medical history, including information about your menstrual periods, changes in weight, and other symptoms you may have. He or she will also perform a physical exam to measure your blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and waist size. Your healthcare provider will also check to see if you have areas of increased hair growth.
A pelvic exam may also be done to see if your ovaries are enlarged or swollen due to an increased number of small cysts. In some cases, your healthcare provider may do a vaginal ultrasound (sonogram) of the pelvic area. This can help your healthcare provider examine your ovaries for cysts and check the thickness of the endometrium (lining of the womb). Women with PCOS tend to have a thick endometrium.
Blood tests may also be ordered to check androgen hormone and glucose (sugar) levels.

What Health Risks Are Associated With PCOS?

PCOS doesn't just affect the reproductive system; it affects all areas of the body. Women with this condition have an increased risk for developing a number of serious health conditions, such as:
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus: In fact, more than 50 percent of women with PCOS will have diabetes or prediabetes before the age of 40.
  • Cardiovascular disease: The risk of heart attack is four to seven times higher in women with PCOS than those who are the same age and do not have the condition.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure): Women with PCOS have a greater risk of having high blood pressure.
  • Cholesterol problems: Women with PCOS often have high levels of LDL ("bad" cholesterol) and low levels of HDL ("good" cholesterol)
  • Sleep apnea: This occurs when breathing stops for short periods of time while sleeping.
  • Anxiety and depression: Women with PCOS have a greater risk of anxiety and depression.
  • Endometrial hyperplasia: The uterine lining becomes too thick, which can increase the risk for endometrial (uterine) cancer.
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
9 Signs You May Have Hyperactive-Impulsive Type Adult ADHD