How do you test for PCOS?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a complex condition and diagnosis involves a few tests.

Firstly, we want to know how many androgens you have floating through your blood.  These are hormones that are typically higher in men like testosterone and DHEA-s.  These hormones are responsible for the symptoms of:

  • acne
  • hirsutism (coarse hair on your face, abdomen or chest/back)
  • male patterned balding

These hormones are elevated in 50-90% of women with PCOS with or without the symptoms above.

Ask for free testosterone to be checked, not total testosterone.  This is because high insulin is often found in women with PCOS.  When insulin is high, it stops another hormone from working properly, sex-hormone binding globulin.  This hormone usually binds extra testosterone so that it doesn’t cause symptoms.  Total testosterone levels measure both the bound and unbound hormone.  This can result in a normal reading even though you may have too much free testosterone causing symptoms.

Secondly, we want to know if you ovulate and how often.  This can be done by tracking your periods using a basal body chart or having your cycle monitored at a clinic.

Thirdly, we want to know what your ovaries look like.  This can be done via ultrasound.  Polycystic ovaries are not found in all women with PCOS.

If you are not sure if you have PCOS and would like to be assessed, you can book an appointment with one of our doctors online.