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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormone disorder amongst women of adult reproductive age.
The exact cause of PCOS is not clear - although symptoms are well recognised, there is often no one single symptom. Diagnosis is based primarily on a patient's medical history and the presence of several of the classic signs - irregular or no menstrual pattern, acne, excessively oily skin, infertility, hairiness or occasionally baldness. Many women with PCOS are hypertensive, insulin resistant and overweight or obese and some may have type 2 diabetes and heart disease. High levels of insulin in the blood stream stimulate the ovaries to increase androgen production.
If PCOS is suspected, investigations are undertaken in the form of ultrasound and clinical pathology.
Diagnosis is usually made after excluding other conditions such as Cushing's syndrome (overactive adrenal gland), thyroid problems, congenital adrenal hyperplasia or increased prolactin production by the pituitary gland. Tests for TSH, 17-hydroxyprogesterone and prolactin are routinely carried out. Elevated androstenedione, DHEAs or testosterone help to confirm the diagnosis. Insulin and glucose levels may also play a role in stimulating the development of PCOS.
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Our tests are not a substitute for seeing your doctor, especially if you are suffering symptoms. Our doctors will interpret your results based on the information you have provided, but will not diagnose, consult or provide any treatment. You will be advised to see your doctor for any necessary follow-up action.
Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) that circulate in the blood. After you eat, the body converts excess calories into triglycerides which are then transported to cells to be stored as fat. Your body releases triglycerides to be used for energy.
Raised triglycerides are thought to be a risk factor for peripheral vascular disease (affecting the blood vessels which supply your arms and legs as well as organs below the stomach) as well as microvascular disease, affecting the tiny blood vessels around the heart.
Cholesterol is an essential body fat (lipid). It is necessary for building cell membranes and for producing a number of essential hormones. Cholesterol is manufactured in the liver and also comes from the food we eat. Elevated cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease - the recommended level is below 5 mmol/L.
Cholesterol however is made up of both good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol so it is important to investigate a raised total cholesterol result to determine the cause. High levels of HDL cholesterol can cause a raised total cholesterol result but may actually be protective against heart disease.
HDL cholesterol (high density lipoprotein) removes cholesterol from the bloodstream and transports it to the liver where it is broken down and removed from the body in bile. HDL cholesterol is commonly known as "good cholesterol".
Raised levels are believed to be protective against heart disease, while low levels are associated with increased risk of a heart attack.
LDL cholesterol (low density lipoprotein) carries cholesterol, triglycerides and other fats to various tissues throughout the body. Too much LDL cholesterol, commonly called "bad cholesterol", can cause fatty deposits to accumulate on artery walls, potentially leading to atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Non-HDL cholesterol is calculated by subtracting your HDL cholesterol result from your total cholesterol. It therefore includes all the non-protective and potentially harmful cholesterol in your blood, not just the LDL cholesterol. As such, it is considered to be a better marker for cardiovascular risk than total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. The recommended level of non-HDL cholesterol is below 4 mmol/L.
HDL % of total cholesterol is considered to be more indicative of your risk of cardiovascular disease than total cholesterol alone.
A result below 20% indicates an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, while one above 20% indicates a lower than average risk.
The random blood glucose test can be taken at any time of day. It measures the level of sugar in your blood and is an indicator of how well your body is metabolising sugars to store in your cells as glycogen.
As the test is random, the reference ranges are higher than that of a fasting sample as the test could have been performed shortly after eating.
Raised levels could indicate pre-diabetes or diabetes.
HbA1c or Haemoglobin A1c is also known as glycosylated haemoglobin and is a longer term measure of glucose levels in your blood than a simple blood glucose test. Glucose attaches itself to the haemoglobin in your red blood cells, and as your cells live for around 8-12 weeks it provides a good indication of the level of sugar in your blood over a 2-3 month period.
This is an important measure for diagnosing type 2 diabetes as well as understanding how well blood sugar levels are being controlled in people who have already been diagnosed with diabetes.
Insulin is an important metabolic hormone. Made in your pancreas, insulin is produced after you have eaten in order to move the sugar from your blood into your cells for future energy use. If we eat too much sugar and starchy foods, our bodies are flooded with insulin and over time our cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, leaving high levels of sugar and insulin in our bloodstreams.
Raised insulin means that you are becoming insulin resistant which is a pre-diabetic condition.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is produced in the pituitary gland and stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
High levels of TSH indicate an underactive thyroid while low levels indicate an overactive thyroid. In primary pituitary failure, a low TSH will be associated with an underactive thyroid.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone is produced in the pituitary gland and is important for women in the production of eggs by the ovaries and for men in the production of sperm. Levels of FSH rise in women as egg production declines, therefore raised FSH often coincides with the onset of the menopause and is a measure of ovarian reserve.
Elevated FSH in women indicates reduced egg supply whereas low levels can signal that you are not ovulating or are pregnant.
Levels of FSH in men rise with age, but can also indicate testicular damage and reduced sperm production. Low levels of FSH are detected when men are not producing sperm.
Luteinising Hormone (LH) is produced by the pituitary gland and is important for male and female fertility. In women it governs the menstrual cycle, peaking before ovulation. In men it stimulates the production of testosterone.
Raised LH in women can signal that you are not ovulating, that you are menopausal or that your hormones are not in balance (as with polycystic ovaries).
Raised LH in men can signal that the testes are not producing enough testosterone.
Testosterone is a male sex hormone which is produced in the testicles of men and, in much smaller amounts, in the ovaries of women. It is responsible for bone and muscle strength, as well as mood, energy and sexual function.
Testosterone levels decline with age and it is unusual to find naturally elevated levels in men. Low testosterone is more common than raised testosterone in the absence of supplementation.
In women, raised testosterone can result in male characteristics such as body hair, greater bulk, a deeper voice and acne - all symptoms of polycystic ovaries, a condition in which elevated testosterone is commonly seen.
Most of the sex hormones - testosterone, oestrogen and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) - found in your blood are bound to Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) which means that they are unavailable to your cells. Measuring the level of SHBG in your blood gives important information about your levels of "free" or unbound hormones which are biologically active and available for use.
Elevated SHBG indicates that there is less testosterone or oestrogen available for use whereas low levels can mean an excess of available hormones.
Prolactin is a hormone which is produced in the pituitary gland and plays a role in reproductive health. Its primary purpose is to stimulate milk production after childbirth, and in pregnant and breastfeeding women prolactin levels can soar.
Raised levels in a woman who isn't pregnant or breastfeeding can signal fertility problems as well as irregular periods.
Raised levels in men can cause reduced sex drive, lack of energy, erectile disfunction and fertility problems.
DHEAs is the sulphated form of DHEA, a hormone which is produced by the adrenal glands and is responsible for male characteristics in both men and women. DHEAs gradually declines from the age of 30 onwards.
A raised result in women may contribute to hirsuitism (excess hair) as well as male body characteristics. It can also be raised in polycystic ovary syndrome.
In both sexes raised DHEAs may indicate Cushing's disease (when the body produces too much cortisol) as well as a possible adrenal tumour.
Low levels of DHEAs may indicate adrenal dysfunction and could contribute to a low libido, fertility problems and, in women, osteoporosis.
Raised levels are often seen in individuals who supplement with DHEA.
Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is vital to survival given its role in functions such as immunity, regulating blood pressure and releasing insulin for blood sugar maintenance.
Raised cortisol levels (Cushing's syndrome) can lead to rapid weight gain, especially around the waist, excessive body hair (in women) and loss of libido and erectile dysfunction (in men).
Low levels of cortisol (Addison's disease) can lead to fatigue, nausea, skin discolouration and low blood pressure.
Your Blood sample will be analysed at our chosen laboratory based in the heart of London's medical district. You can be assured of fast, accurate results from the UK's largest independent provider of clinical diagnostic tests
Your blood sample will be analysed at one of our chosen laboratories. You can be assured of fast, accurate results from one of our accredited independent providers of clinical diagnostic tests.
Our medical team will comment on out-of-range blood test results and give you follow-up advice where necessary. If you need it, a PDF copy of your Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Profile 1 test results can be downloaded for your doctor.
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