Diagnosing PCOS when you are on birth control pills

Affecting one out of every six women of reproductive age, PCOS aka Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is an endocrine disorder that causes several side effects. The most common of these include irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain and insulin resistance. Symptoms like acne, increased growth of facial or body hair owing to excessive androgen production, and appearance of dark velvety patches on the skin near joints and folds are also quite common in women who suffer from PCOS.

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Diagnosing PCOS while on birth control pills usually takes one of the three forms, including physical symptoms like irregular menstrual cycles, ultrasounds or blood tests and other clinical methods to prove the excess amounts of androgen in the body.

Physical Symptoms

PCOS can cause certain physical symptoms that can be easily noted even if the concerned woman is on oral contraceptives. Symptoms like acne, abdominal/visceral fat, skin tags, hirsutism, acanthosisnigricans and hair thinning/loss etc. are common warning signs for PCOS.

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There are ways you can find out if you have PCOS while on birth control pills. Measure your weight and waist circumference. If you are overweight and have a waist size of more than 32 inches, you may be having PCOS.

Examine your face and body closely in the mirror. Look out for excessive hair growth on the face or body, dark patches on the skin in the body folds, or for thinning patches of hair near the forehead. If you note any or all of these symptoms, you may want to visit an endocrinologist for a more detailed examination.

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Blood Tests

Certain blood tests can indicate the possibility of PCOS in the system. These include blood tests for DHEAS, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, free testosterone and 17-OH Progesterone and serum. The doctor may also recommend other tests along with these blood tests in order for a more conclusive diagnosis.

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Glucose Tolerance Tests

While hormonal contraceptives would aid in reducing excess amounts of androgen in the body, they would not have any effect on weight loss or insulin sensitivity. A woman suffering from PCOS would tend to develop insulin resistance and gain weight eventually.

In this case, a blood glucose tolerance test would be able to diagnose the condition. The glucose tolerance test is a measure of how fast the body clears glucose after a sugary food or drink. This would hence, help diagnose PCOS in a woman who is on hormonal contraceptives.

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Ultrasounds

PCOS is usually diagnosed with the help of an ultrasound, which would scan the endometrial lining and feed the images to a computer. As such, the presence of cysts can be confirmed via an ultrasound. An ultrasound would also help diagnose any abnormalities in the endometrial lining (thickness), ovaries (size and appearance) and ovarian follicles.

Summary

PCOS is a very common endocrine disorder in women. It is prone to cause many side effects in the body. As such, diagnosing PCOS while a woman is on birth control pills can be effectively done by noting certain physical symptoms, blood tests, glucose tolerance tests and ultrasounds.

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