what is pcos?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common cause of ovulation failure and resulting infertility. Because it is a syndrome rather than a specific disease it can be more difficult to diagnose, and often the diagnosis is missed.  It affects women in different ways, some may get skin problems, some put weight on, some develop cysts on their ovaries, some get irregular periods, and most get sugar or carbohydrate cravings.  What is common in all cases is that there is an imbalance in the way the body uses sugar, and this in turn leads to the body becoming less sensitive to insulin resulting in insulin resistance and hormone imbalance. Confirming a diagnosis is useful because it will help inform you of your treatment options.  Diet to help balance blood sugar will always be an important part of treatment.

pcos blood tests and what the levels mean

  • Testosterone - may be raised because the ovaries produce more testosterone if you have insulin resistance
  • Luteinising Hormone  (LH) - may be raised because more is produced when insulin levels are high
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) - might be low - here you are are comparing the FSH level to the LH level - if LH is high then ovulation may be suppressed
  • Glucose - may be raised 
  • HbA1C - may be raised - this test measures how much glucose has bonded to the haemoglobin in red blood cells over the past 3 months - it is an excellent indicator of blood sugar control
  • Insulin - may be raised if your body is becoming insulin resistant
  • Cortisol - may be raised in PCOS but also used to rule out adrenal problems
  • Prolactin - may be raised in PCOS, but can also be raised in other conditions
  • Lipid Profile - may be raised because your metabolism isn't working efficiently
  • Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) - may be reduced in insulin resistance and so may be low in PCOS
  • Antimullerian Hormone (AMH) - may be raised because the ovaries may produce more follicles even though they may not be good quality
  • 17 Hydroxyprogesterone - to rule out a rare condition called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) which can also cause infertility
  • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) - performed to rule out thyroid problems which can cause similar symptoms to PCOS
  • Androstenedione - may be raised
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) - may be raised

how to get tested for pcos

Tests for PCOS are quite extensive, your GP will usually order Testosterone and LH,  if you suspect that PCOS may be your problem then the full range of tests above may be worth considering.  These can all be performed as a PCOS Profile at The Doctors Laboratory in London.  A fasting sample is recommended.  You will need a request form to be completed.