Women who are eventually diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, often spend a great deal of time and money trying to get a diagnosis. A comprehensive cholesterol profile called the VAP Cholesterol Test has proved helpful in identifying the disease.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Between 5 and 10 million women in the United States have PCOS, which is the main cause of female infertility and the most common metabolic abnormality in women of childbearing age. Girls as young as 11 years of age can develop the disease, according to the National Women’s Health Information Center. Despite its prevalence, PCOS is difficult to diagnose.
Although the exact cause of PCOS is not known, hormonal imbalance is a main problem, because women with PCOS produce more androgens (male hormones) than normal. They also tend to have too much insulin, and the excess appears to increase production of androgens. The result can be symptoms such as acne, excessive hair growth, weight gain, and problems with ovulation. Other signs and symptoms include cysts on the ovaries, thinning hair, skin tags, and pelvic pain.
Cholesterol and PCOS
No single test can be used to diagnose PCOS, but a new detailed cholesterol test called the VAP Cholesterol Test is proving helpful. Developed by Atherotech Diagnostics Lab, it shows an association between women who have PCOS and low levels of HDL2, a subclass of high density lipoprotein (HDL). The test measures 22 factors rather than just the four in a standard cholesterol test (LDL, HDL, total cholesterol, triglycerides) and can be administered without fasting.
According to Steven Foley, MD, a gynecologist in Colorado Springs who specializes in PCOS, the cholesterol test “is the most accurate and easiest method to evaluate my female patients for elevated cholesterol as well as polycystic ovarian syndrome.” He emphasizes that “early diagnosis is critical not only in reducing the risk of more serious complications, but because PCOS can be devastating for women physically and emotionally.”
Women who have PCOS are at greater risk for several serious conditions. More than half of women with PCOS will develop diabetes or pre-diabetes before age 40. The risk of heart attack is 4 to 7 times higher in women with PCOS, and women with PCOS are at greater risk for high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, endometrial cancer, and sleep apnea. Many women also develop depression and anxiety.
Given that September is PCOS Awareness Month, this is a good time for women who are experiencing symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome to see their doctor. Those who do may want to ask about cholesterol testing as part of the diagnostic process.
Atherotech Diagnostics Lab