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Top 5 PCOS Questions and Answers

PCOS affects about 5 to 10 percent of women of reproductive age, and related symptoms and even a diagnosis can be confusing. We talked with Dr. Deborah Wachs, a reproductive endocrinologist with Reproductive Science Center of the Bay Area, to answer fertility patients’ frequently asked questions about PCOS.

Q: Why do some doctors tell me that I have PCOS but others tell me that I don’t?

A: There are differing opinions on the features that should be present in order for someone to be diagnosed with PCOS. So depending on your physician’s methodology, you may or may not be considered to have PCOS. For example, most physicians believe that if you have irregular menstrual periods and excess hair growth on your body, you most likely have PCOS. Other physicians may tell you that you have PCOS if your ovaries have many follicles on an ultrasound exam and if certain lab results are elevated. Because there are different criteria included in making the diagnosis, it can sometimes vary as to which patients physicians will officially diagnose with PCOS.

The ultrasound findings of PCOS are important to talk about in more detail. An ovary that has more than 10 follicles is considered to be a “polycystic ovary.” Approximately 25 to 30% of all women will have ovaries that meet this definition. But 25 to 30% of all women DO NOT have PCOS. In order to have PCOS, a woman needs to have another finding such as irregular periods or excess hair growth or a high testosterone level. So some women will have a diagnosis of polycystic ovaries, without having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. This can be confusing and I see a lot of patients who are unsure of their diagnosis because they were told that their ovaries were polycystic.

Next: What does insulin have to do with PCOS and why is my doctor talking to me about diabetes?


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