Hormonal imbalance arises whenever there is an excessive or too little of a hormone in one’s bloodstream. Due to their significant function in the body, even a slight hormone imbalance can have far-reaching consequences.
Hormones are typically the chemicals that the endocrine system's glands produce. They convey messages to tissues and body organs via the bloodstream, instructing them on what to do and when. Hormones also regulate various major body processes. Therefore, any hormonal imbalance could have a significant impact on numerous body functions.
Signs and Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance
Hormones play a vital role in your general health and well-being. Because of this, a wide range of signs and symptoms may indicate a hormonal imbalance. The signs and symptoms you experience will be determined by the hormones or glands that are malfunctioning.
Any of these signs or symptoms could occur from the common hormonal problems in both men and women;
- Gaining weight
- A fat hump between the shoulders
- Weight loss that is unexplained and occasionally unexpected
- Muscle weakness
- Pain, tenderness, and stiffness in the muscles
- Pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints
- Heart rate increase or decrease
- High sensitivity to heat or cold
- Constipation or frequent bowel movements
- More frequent urination
- Increased thirst and hunger
- A diminished desire for sex
- Anxiousness, irritability, or nervousness
- Eyesight problems (blurry vision)
- Fine, fragile, or thinning of the hair
- Skin dryness
- Swollen and rounded face
- Stretch marks that are purple or pink
You should note that these hormonal imbalance symptoms are generic and may not always indicate a hormone imbalance.
Signs and symptoms in women:
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most frequent hormonal imbalance in women of reproductive age. During puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause stages, your typical hormonal cycle also shifts.
The common hormonal imbalance symptoms in females can include:
- Irregular menstruation like stopped, missed, or frequent periods
- Heavy periods
- Excess hair on the chin, face, or other regions of the body (hirsutism)
- Acne on the chest, face, or upper back
- Loss of hair
- Darkening of the skin, particularly in the folds of the neck, the groin, and beneath the breasts
- Skin tags
- Dryness of the vagina
- Atrophy of the vagina
- Sex-related discomfort
- Sweating during night
Signs and symptoms in men:
Testosterone is essential in male growth. A number of symptoms can result if your body is not making enough testosterone. Hormonal imbalance in men can manifest itself in the following ways:
- Gynecomastia, or the growth of breast tissue
- Breast soreness
- erection dysfunction (ED)
- Reduced body hair growth and beard growth
- Muscular mass deterioration
- Osteoporosis (bone mass loss)
- Concentration problems
- Hot flashes
Signs and symptoms in children:
During puberty, both boys and girls begin to produce sex hormones. Most children who experience a delay in puberty won’t have normal puberty, while some will have hypogonadism.
Boys with hypogonadism may have the following symptoms:
- A lack of muscle mass development
- A voice that does not deepen
- Sparse growth of body hair
- Impaired growth of penis and testicles
- The disproportionate growth of the arms and legs in comparison to the body's trunk
Girls with hypogonadism may notice the following;
- Menstruation does not begin
- Breast tissue does not grow.
- The rate of growth does not increase.
Causes of Hormonal Imbalance
At some point in life, every person is likely to experience normal hormonal imbalance periods or fluctuations. However, a hormonal imbalance might as well occur due to endocrine glands malfunctions.
Endocrine glands are the cells responsible for producing, storing, and releasing hormones into the bloodstream. A person’s body comprises multiple endocrine glands that regulate various organs like;
- Adrenal glands
- Pineal gland
- Gonads (ovaries and testis)
- Hypothalamus gland
- Pituitary gland
- Pancreatic islets
- Thyroid and parathyroid glands
Various diseases and disorders can affect some or a number of the endocrine glands. Also, environmental factors and particular lifestyle behaviors can contribute to hormonal imbalances. Examples of the possible causes of hormonal imbalance can include the following;
- Diabetes (type 1 and type 2)
- Chronic or severe stress
- Hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia
- Overactive and underactive thyroid
- Poor diet and nutrition
- Parathyroid hormone overproduction or underproduction
- Anabolic steroid drugs abuse
- Birth control drugs or hormonal replacement
- Pituitary tumors
- Addison’s disease
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Noncancerous tumors and cysts affecting the endocrine
- Endocrine gland injury
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- Cancers of the endocrine glands
- Infections or chronic allergic reactions
- Iodine deficiency
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- Turner syndrome
- Genetic pancreatitis
Hormonal Imbalance Diagnosis
There isn't a single test that doctors or endocrinologists can use to detect a hormone imbalance. However, consult your provider right away if you experience any signs or symptoms that may indicate a hormonal imbalance.
To determine if you have a hormonal imbalance, you will undergo a comprehensive physical examination during consultation. Your doctor will ask you to describe the symptoms you have as well as the sequence in which they occur. If necessary, carry a list of all your current prescriptions, vitamins, and supplements.
Some of the common questions your doctor is likely to ask you include;
- The frequency in which you experience the symptoms
- Whether you have recently gained or lost weight
- What helps ease your symptoms
- Whether you are more stressed than usual
- Whether you are planning to have children
- Your previous menstrual period
- Whether you experience pain during sex or any vaginal dryness
- Whether you have difficulty getting or even maintaining an erection
Your doctor may recommend one or more diagnostic procedures and tests based on your symptoms. If you want, then you may also ask him or her to run these hormonal imbalance tests on you:
- Blood tests
The majority of hormones are detectable in the blood. Hence, your doctor can extract a sample of your blood and send it to the laboratory for testing. He or she can also order a blood test to examine your thyroid and testosterone, estrogen, and cortisol levels.
- Pelvic examination
The medical provider can conduct a Pap smear to look for any unusual cysts, tumors, or lumps in women. For men, the doctor may examine the scrotum for tumors or any anomalies.
Ultrasound equipment employs sound waves to view your inner body. When diagnosing hormonal imbalance, the doctor can thus suggest an ultrasound imaging of the ovaries, uterus, testicles, pituitary gland, or thyroid.
In other cases, more advanced diagnostic tests and procedures are necessary. Hence, your doctor may recommend;
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan
- Sperm count test
- Thyroid scan
Hormonal Imbalance Treatment Options
Hormonal imbalance treatment varies based on the underlying cause. In women, the hormonal imbalance treatment options can include;
Birth control or hormone control: For women who are not planning on getting pregnant, estrogen and progesterone-based medicines can help normalize irregular menstrual periods and ease symptoms. Birth control medicines can be given as tablets, rings, shots, patches, or intrauterine devices (IUD).
Vaginal estrogen: The doctor can recommend the direct use of creams with estrogen on the vaginal tissues for women with vaginal dryness due to variations in estrogen levels. They can also ease vaginal dryness with estrogen pills and rings.
Hormone replacement drugs: Your doctor can recommend these drugs to relieve severe menopause-related symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats temporarily.
Eflornithine (Vaniqa): Women with excessive growth of facial hair can use this prescription lotion to slow down the process.
Anti-androgen drugs: These medications help obstruct the effects of the hormone androgen, male sex hormone present in both males and females. As a result, it reduces severe acne and excessive facial hair growth, and hair loss.
Letrozole (Femara) and clomiphene (Clomid): These drugs aid in the stimulation of ovulation in PCOS patients who are attempting to conceive. Gonadotropins injection may be administered to women with PCOS and infertility to help boost the chances of conception.
Assisted reproductive technology: Sometimes, In vitro fertilization (IVF) can help females who have PCOS issues become pregnant.
The common treatment option for hormonal imbalance in males can include;
Testosterone medications: Testosterone gels and patches can help relieve the symptoms associated with hypogonadism and other diseases that provoke low testosterone levels. Examples of these conditions are stunted or delayed puberty.
Hormones are in charge of various essential processes in the body. A hormonal imbalance thus occurs if they are out of balance, and the effects can vary from one person to another. It can also lead to a number of significant problems.
Almost everyone goes through at least one or two phases of hormone imbalance in their lifetime. Mostly during puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy, hormonal imbalances are increasingly common. However, some people have persistent and irregular hormonal abnormalities. Seek medical help right away if you experience prolonged unexplainable symptoms causing pain and interfering with daily activities.