Polycystic ovary syndrome most often develops between puberty and menopause. People with a family history of PCOS may be more likely to have the disorder. Because some symptoms can mimic common issues women face throughout their lives, it’s important to talk to your provider when changes to your body occur so they can determine if PCOS is the cause.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that causes changes in hormone levels. It can lead to a range of concerns, from acne, weight gain, and abnormal hair growth to irregular periods, ovarian cysts, and difficulty getting pregnant. Because PCOS can impact people in many ways, it’s important to be seen by a provider to confirm a diagnosis and determine the best kind of therapy. By coordinating care with endocrinologists, dermatologists, and your gynecologist, your team of Duke specialists can tailor care to your needs for the most effective outcomes.
Who Is at Risk for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
Duke Health offers testing and treatment for PCOS at two locations in Durham and one in Raleigh. Find an option near you.
Tests for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Your family health history and physical and pelvic exams will help your doctors make an accurate diagnosis. Because PCOS can produce symptoms that impact many areas of your life, you’ll work with a team of specialists that may include experts in endocrinology, fertility, dermatology, and nutrition. Our providers may request the following tests to confirm whether you have PCOS.
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome have high levels of androgens, a hormone that naturally exists in women but in lower amounts than men. A blood test can show changes in hormone levels and also helps rule out other disorders such as thyroid disease or pituitary disorders. Blood tests will also show if your body is changing the way it reacts to insulin, which can also be a sign of PCOS.
A pelvic ultrasound uses a vaginal ultrasound probe to evaluate your uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. This test is the best way to see if your ovary follicles have been impacted by polycystic ovary syndrome, because PCOS can change their size and ability to create estrogen and progesterone.
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Skin and Hair Conditions Related to PCOS
Polycystic ovary syndrome can change hormone levels (known as hyperandrogenism) and cause common hair disorders like unwanted growth on your body or unexpected loss. These are normal side effects that can be treated in collaboration between our endocrinologists and experts in dermatology, who specialize in treating skin and hair conditions related to PCOS. If you’re impacted by female pattern hair loss, excess hair on your face, chest, or back (hirsutism), acne, or other skin conditions, we can recommend medications or treatments to minimize these changes and make you feel more comfortable.