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June, 2012:

FAQs concerning the diagnosis of PCOS

How should Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) be diagnosed?

PCOS should be diagnosed by a credible physician who will begin with a basic physical examination. He/she may also want to have an ultrasound done of your ovaries and require a number of blood tests. Be sure to let your physician know if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of PCOS. There are a number of doctors who feel that a woman must have at least three of the symptoms prior to diagnosing PCOS. Other doctors may make the diagnosis based on the emphasis on lack of ovulation.


How are polycystic ovaries diagnosed by ultrasound?

Ovary ultrasound showing cystic ovaries courtesy of LearningRadiology.com

Ovary ultrasound showing cystic ovaries courtesy of LearningRadiology.com

An ultrasound of the ovaries is usually done by placing a probe into the vagina to view the ovaries. Sometimes, an abdominal ultrasound is done but a transvaginal ultrasound is preferred.

A classic PCOS ovary is enlarged and has a “string of pearls” appearance, where the “pearls” are the cysts. Usually ultrasound diagnosis of polycystic ovaries is made if there are at least 8-10 cysts that are less than 10mm in size on each ovary. The polycystic ovary tends to be enlarged to 1.5-3 times the size of a normal ovary.


Is it possible to have polycystic ovaries without having the syndrome?

Yes. It is estimated that out of 20 to 30% of women, only 5 to 10% will be diagnosed as having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome based on their symptoms. Having cysts on your ovaries is not a definitive criteria to having PCOS. However, a large number of women with ovarian cysts also display other symptoms hormonally of having a predisposition for PCOS.


Is it possible to have PCOS without having cysts?

The medical jury is still out on this subject. Some physicians believe that if a woman is exhibiting a number of PCOS symptoms but do not have cysts, that does not necessary mean that they do not have the syndrome. However, it is difficult to make a firm diagnosis of PCOS without the presence of either an increased number of small cysts or ovarian enlargement. Furthermore, in most cases, if a patient is displaying other symptoms, the likelihood of some ovary irregularities.


Woman with Alopecia Areata since childhood

Story from a 41-year-old woman with alopecia areata who has difficulty getting comfortable with her hair loss:

Bald patches began at age seven. Cortisone shots directly into the patches worked temporarily. When patches came back around age nine I was treated with: more shots in scalp, Topsyn ointment and also fluorescent light treatments. Eventually all of my hair fell out. By age 15 I was asked to participate in the Minoxidil study. I used it at (what is now considered to be) 100x current market strength. It did not work for me. By age 17 my eyebrows fell out. By age 23 my eyelashes, once lush and long, also fell out. Half of my mons is also bald–the rest is pale blonde and thin. I have transparent hair growth under my armpits and shave it off once every ten days or so. I haven’t shaved my legs since I was thirteen. I am now 41 years old, married, and have two children who do not have this disease. I wear a wig, and every day is hell for me because it is not comfortable. I just want my hair to grow back, once and for all, so I can feel normal again. I have never settled and gotten used to this, but I’ve made the best of it from what I have.

Thank you for sharing your story!