The process to being officially diagnosed with PCOS can be a long and tedious one with many different required tests and exams. Blood tests are one of the first and most important examinations done to determine if a woman is suffering from PCOS. Blood tests are used to assess varying hormone levels as well as to determine if the patient is suffering from insulin resistance, two key factors in PCOS. The most important tests to ask for are listed here… and make sure you are working with an endocrinologist – doctor who specializes in hormones.
- DHEA, S/Testosterone, Free: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and Testosterone are two of the most prominent androgens, or male hormones. Symptoms like abnormal or excess hair growth, male pattern baldness and even menstrual irregularities are caused by an increased level of these particular androgens.
- Lutenizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): LH and FSH are hormones that encourage a woman’s body to ovulate and are both secreted by the pituitary gland. Low or imbalanced levels of these hormones cause both infertility and irregular periods.
- Progesterone: Progesterone helps prepare the uterine lining for pregnancy. Low levels of Progesterone usually indicate that ovulation did not occur and no egg was released. This is a huge issue for all women whether or not you wish to become pregnant as progesterone is important for so many things, not the least of which is keeping us calm and balanced.
- Estradiol: The most active estrogen in the female body is called estradiol, and is mainly secreted by the ovaries. Estrogen and Progesterone need to work together to promote menstruation. Some women with PCOS are surprised to find that their estrogen Levels fall within normal range, which is usually caused by Insulin.
- Hemoglobin A1c: Useful to reveal your average blood sugar levels over the past 3-4 months, letting you know if you are headed towards diabetes.
- Cortisol: High cortisol levels can lead to symptoms such as weight gain, hypertension, high blood sugar, osteoporosis and fragile skin; while low levels of cortisol may cause weight loss, weakening of muscles, fatigue, low blood pressure, vomiting and diarrhea and loss of consciousness.
- Fasting Insulin: If a person makes too little insulin or is resistant to its effects, cells starve. If someone makes too much then symptoms of low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) emerge.
- Fasting Glucose: To detect high blood glucose (sugar) and low blood glucose as a pre-screen for diabetes and blood sugar imbalances. Women with PCOS are much more pre-disposed to diabetes.
- Prolactin: To evaluate menstrual irregularites and infertility in women.
- Thyroid Markers: TSH, Free T3, Free T4, TPO: Many times women with symptoms of PCOS may have an underactive thyroid. Be sure to test for these markers along with thyroid peroxidase which can help discover an autoimmune condition.
- Sex Hormone Binding Globulin: To help evaluate excess testosterone production in women.
The tests below help to determine if you have a gluten intolerance. This can help you decide whether or not to avoid gluten as a factor in your hormonal imbalances. We always suggest that you avoid all wheat and gluten-containing products anyway.
- Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies (tTG-IgA): Used to help diagnose and monitor celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder caused by an inappropriate immune response to gluten, a protein found in wheat. Symptoms of Celiac Disease include diarrhea, bloating, gas (flatulence, farting), swollen ankles (edema), anemia, fatigue, vitamin K deficiency, and excessive bruising and bleeding.
- Total serum IgA: This test is used to check for IgA deficiency, a harmless condition associated with celiac disease that can cause a false negative tTG-IgA or EMA result. If you are IgA deficient, your doctor can order a DGP or tTG-IgG test.
- Deaminated gliadin peptide (DGP IgA and IgG): This test can be used to further screen for celiac disease in individuals with IgA deficiency or people who test negative for tTg or EMA antibodies.
** Since there is currently no blood test for gluten sensitivity, the only way to be diagnosed is to undergo the screening and diagnostic tests required to confirm celiac disease (go to celiac.org for more info). A diagnosis of gluten sensitivity is confirmed when you are not diagnosed with celiac disease or wheat allergy, and your symptoms diminish after starting a gluten-free diet, followed by a return of symptoms when gluten is reintroduced into your diet.
Always refer to your doctor fo rmore information.