Let’s talk about Hormonal Imbalance – Everything You Should Know.
Hormones are a sensitive part of your body. Hence it serves as your body’s chemical messengers.
If you have a hormonal imbalance, you have too much or too little of a certain hormone. Even tiny changes can have serious effects on your whole body.
However, rethink the homemade recipe; excessive or too little of any ingredients may cause more harm than good.
While some hormone levels fluctuate throughout your lifetime and may just result from natural ageing, other changes occur when your endocrine glands get the recipe wrong.
Signs or Symptoms of a Hormonal Imbalance
In reality, your hormones play an essential function in your overall health. As a result, there’s a broad range of signs or symptoms that could indicate a hormonal imbalance. Your signs or symptoms will depend on which hormones or glands aren’t working properly.
Common hormonal conditions affecting both men and women may lead to the following signs or symptoms:
- a hump of fat between the shoulders
- weight gain
- muscle weakness
- unexplained, and sometimes sudden, weight loss
- muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness
- pain, stiffness, or swelling in your joints
- increased or decreased heart rate
- increased sensitivity to cold or heat
- frequent urination
- increased thirst
- constipation or more frequent bowel movements
- increased hunger
- decreased sex drive
- nervousness, anxiety, or irritability
- blurred vision
- rounded face
- purple or pink stretch marks
- thinning hair or fine, brittle hair
- dry skin
- puffy face
Despite all these, have it in mind that these symptoms are nonspecific, and having them doesn’t mean that you have a hormonal imbalance.
Signs or symptoms in females
In females of reproductive age, the most common hormonal imbalance is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Your normal hormonal cycle also changes naturally during these stages:
Symptoms of a hormonal imbalance specific to females include:
- hirsutism, or excessive hair on the face, chin, or other parts of the body
- heavy or irregular periods, including missed periods, a stopped period, or a frequent period
- acne on the face, chest, or upper back
- hair loss
- darkening of the skin, especially along neck creases, in the groin, and underneath the breasts
- skin tags
- vaginal dryness
- vaginal atrophy
- pain during sex
- night sweats
Signs or symptoms in males
Additionally, testosterone plays an important role in male development. If you aren’t producing enough testosterone, it can cause a variety of symptoms.
Symptoms of hormonal imbalance in adult males include:
- gynecomastia, or the development of breast tissue
- breast tenderness
- erectile dysfunction (ED)
- the decrease in beard growth and body hair growth
- loss of muscle mass
- loss of bone mass, otherwise known as osteoporosis
- difficulty concentrating
- hot flashes
Signs or symptoms in children
Specifically, boys and girls begin producing sex hormones during puberty.
Many children with delayed puberty will experience normal puberty, but some have a condition called hypogonadism.
Boys with hypogonadism may experience:
- a voice that doesn’t deepen
- lack of development of muscle mass
- body hair that grows sparsely
- impaired penis and testicular growth
- excessive growth of the arms and legs about the trunk of the body
For girls with hypogonadism:
- breast tissue doesn’t develop
- menstruation doesn’t begin
- the growth rate doesn’t increase
Important to realize, there are many likely causes of a hormonal imbalance. Causes vary depending on which hormones or glands are affected.
Common causes of hormonal imbalance include:
- hormone therapy
- injury or trauma
- cancer treatments such as chemotherapy
- tumours, whether cancerous or benign
- pituitary tumours
- eating disorders
While the conditions below may be originally caused by hormonal imbalances, having the conditions can also lead to further hormonal imbalances:
- diabetes (type 1 and type 2)
- diabetes insipidus
- hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid
- hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid
- hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules
- Addison’s disease
- Cushing syndrome, or high levels of cortisol
- congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which causes low levels of cortisol and aldosterone
Causes unique to women
Similarly, many causes of hormonal imbalance in women are related to reproductive hormones.
Common causes include:
- primary ovarian insufficiency, which is also known as premature menopause
- hormone drugs such as birth control pills
Tests and diagnosis
For instance, there’s no single test available for doctors to diagnose a hormonal imbalance. As a result, start by making an appointment with your doctor for a physical exam.
However, be ready to describe your symptoms and the timeline along which they’ve occurred.
Your doctor may ask you questions such as:
- How often are you experiencing symptoms?
- Are you more stressed than usual?
- Does anything help relieve your symptoms?
- Have you lost or gained weight recently?
- When was your last period?
- Are you planning to get pregnant?
- Do you have vaginal dryness or pain during sex?
- Do you have trouble getting or maintaining an erection?
Hence, depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend one or more diagnostic tests. You can also request to perform these tests.
Your blood sample will be sent to a lab for testing. Most hormones can be detected in the blood.
A doctor can request a blood test to check your thyroid and estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol levels.
Your doctor may perform a Pap smear to feel for any unusual lumps, cysts, or tumours if you’re female.
Hence, if you’re male, your doctor may check your scrotum for any lumps or abnormalities.
Furthermore, an ultrasound machine uses sound waves to look inside your body. Doctors may request an ultrasound to get images of the uterus, ovaries, testicles, thyroid, or pituitary gland.
Sometimes more advanced tests are required. These can include:
- thyroid scan
- sperm count test
Firstly, if you’re experiencing symptoms of a hormonal imbalance, you may also consider using a home testing kit. They’re available for a variety of conditions.
Home testing kits for menopause measure follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in your urine. FSH levels rise when you enter menopause.
Secondly, levels also rise and drop during a normal menstrual cycle. Other factors, such as the use of hormonal birth control, can also affect your FSH levels.
As such, these kits can give you a sign of whether menopause has started, but they can’t tell you conclusively. However, your healthcare provider’s approval may be necessary.
Home testing kits use saliva or blood from the fingertip to regulate your levels of cortisol, key thyroid hormones, and sex hormones such as progesterone and testosterone. Some tests may require a urine sample.
These kits require you to send the sample off to a lab. Your test results are usually available online within 5 to 9 business days.
The company LetsGetChecked provides at-home tests that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, many at-home tests haven’t received FDA approval.
Regardless of which at-home test you choose, it’s important to discuss your test results with your healthcare provider and let them know if you’re concerned about certain symptoms or a possible diagnosis.
Products You can try.
Convenient at-home tests are available and able to detect a variety of conditions and biomarkers. Shop for them online:
- thyroid tests, from companies like LetsGetChecked, EverlyWell, and aware
- male hormone level tests from companies like LetsGetChecked, EverlyWell, and myLAB
- female hormone level tests, from companies like LetsGetChecked, EverlyWell, and imaware
- cortisol tests from companies like LetsGetChecked, EverlyWell, and Thorne
Treatment Options for a Hormonal Imbalance
More educating, treatment for a hormonal imbalance will depend on what’s causing it.
Some common treatment options are described below:
If you’re encountering hot flashes or other uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, your doctor may prescribe a low dose of estrogen.
Be sure to discuss the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with your doctor.
If you’re encountering vaginal dryness or pain during sex, you may want to try applying an estrogen cream, tablet, or ring.
However, using this local therapy treatment helps eliminate many of the risks linked with systemic estrogen, or estrogen that travels throughout the bloodstream to the appropriate organ.
Hormonal birth control
As a matter of fact, hormonal birth control can help regulate your menstrual cycles.
Types of hormonal birth control include the:
- birth control patch, pill, and shot
- vaginal ring
- intrauterine device (IUD)
It may also help improve acne and decrease extra hair on the face and body.
Androgens are male sex hormones that are present in both women and men. Women with high androgen levels may choose to take medication that blocks the effects of androgens.
These effects include:
- hair loss
- facial hair growth
Testosterone supplements can reduce the symptoms of low testosterone in men. In adolescents with delayed puberty, it stimulates the start of puberty. It’s available in many forms, including injections, a patch, and gel.
Thyroid hormone therapy
If you have hypothyroidism, the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine (Levoxyl, Synthroid, Unithroid) can bring hormone levels back into balance.
Metformin is a type 2 diabetes medication that may help some women with PCOS symptoms. The FDA hasn’t approved it to treat PCOS, but it might help lower androgen levels and encourage ovulation.
Flibanserin (Addyi) and bremelanotide (Vyleesi)
Addyi and Vyleesi are the only medications that are FDA approved for the treatment of low sexual desire in premenopausal women. Addyi is a pill, and Vyleesi is a self-administered injectable medication.
These drugs may come with some serious side effects, such as severe nausea and changes in blood pressure. Talk to your doctor to see if either one could be right for you.
This prescription cream is designed specifically for excessive facial hair in women. Applied topically to the skin, it helps slow new hair growth, but it doesn’t eliminate existing hair.
Interestingly, there are many nutritional supplements on the market that claim to treat menopause and hormone imbalance. However, few of them are backed up by scientific evidence.
Many of these supplements contain plant-derived hormones.
These are sometimes called “bioidentical” hormones because they chemically resemble the body’s natural hormones. There’s no evidence to suggest that they work better than regular hormone therapy, though.
Some people find that yoga helps treat symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Yoga is excellent for your strength, flexibility, and balance. It may also aid in weight loss, which can help regulate your hormones.
You can also make the following lifestyle changes:
- Eat well. A balanced diet is an important part of overall health.
- Decrease vaginal discomfort. Use lubes or moisturizers free of parabens, glycerin, and petroleum.
- Lose weight. A 10 per cent reduction in body weight in women may help make your periods more regular and increase your chances of getting pregnant. Weight loss in men may help improve erectile function.
- Avoid hot flashes. Try to identify things that commonly trigger your hot flashes, such as warm temperatures, spicy foods, or hot beverages.
- Remove unwanted hair. If you have excess facial or body hair, you can use hair removal cream, laser hair removal, or electrolysis.
Hormonal Imbalance and Acne
The main cause of acne is excess oil production, which starts to clogged pores. Acne is most popular in areas with many oil glands, including the:
- upper back
Acne is often linked with pubescent hormonal changes, but there’s really a lifelong relationship between acne and hormones.
Acne and menstruation
The menstrual cycle is one of the most typical acne triggers. For many women, acne increases the week before they get their period and then clears up.
Dermatologists prescribe hormonal testing for women who have acne with other symptoms, such as irregular periods and excess facial or body hair.
Acne and androgens
Androgens contribute to acne by overstimulating the oil glands.
Both girls and boys have high levels of androgens during puberty, so acne is so common at that time. Androgen levels typically settle down in a person’s early 20s.
Hormonal Imbalance and Weight Gain
Hormones play an essential role in metabolism and your body’s ability to use energy. Hormone disorders, such as Cushing syndrome, can cause you to become overweight or develop obesity.
People with Cushing syndrome have high levels of cortisol in their blood. This leads to a rise in appetite and fat storage.
Hypothyroidism, if the condition is severe, can also lead to weight gain.
During menopause, many women gain weight because the metabolism slows down. You may find that even though you’re eating and exercising like normal, you still gain weight.
However, the only way to treat weight gain from a hormone disorder is to treat the underlying condition.
Hormonal Imbalance and Pregnancy
Notably, during a normal, healthy pregnancy, your body goes through major hormonal changes. This is different from a hormonal imbalance.
Pregnancy and PCOS
Hormonal imbalances, such as PCOS, are among the leading causes of infertility. With PCOS, the hormonal imbalance interferes with ovulation. You can’t get pregnant if you’re not ovulating.
Pregnancy is still possible if you have PCOS. Losing weight can make a big difference in your fertility.
There are also prescription medications available that can stimulate ovulation and improve your chances of becoming pregnant.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is also an option if the medication doesn’t work. As a last resort, surgery can temporarily restore ovulation.
PCOS can cause problems during pregnancy for both you and your baby. There are higher rates of:
- gestational diabetes
- cesarean delivery
- high birth weight
- admission to and time spent in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)
Hormonal imbalance and hair loss
Most hair loss, such as male pattern baldness, is genetic and unrelated to hormonal changes. However, hormonal changes and imbalances can sometimes cause temporary hair loss.
In women, this is often related to:
- the onset of menopause
Overproduction or underproduction of thyroid hormones can also cause hair loss.
Hormone imbalances are linked with many chronic or long-term health conditions. Without proper treatment, you could be at risk for several serious medical conditions, including:
- diabetes insipidus
- high blood pressure
- diabetes (type 1 and type 2)
- high cholesterol
- heart disease
- kidney damage
- depression and anxiety
- endometrial cancer
- breast cancer
- sleep apnea
- loss of muscle mass
- urinary incontinence
- sexual dysfunction