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Hormonal Imbalance in Women: Causes, Symptoms, Tests, Treatment

Hormonal Imbalance in Women: Causes, Symptoms, Tests, Treatment

What do you mean by a hormonal imbalance?

Hormones are chemicals produced in the endocrine glands that go through your circulation informing tissues and organs what to do and are involved in the regulation of many of your bodily functions, such as reproduction and metabolism.

You have too much or too little of a specific hormone when you have a hormonal imbalance, and even little variations can have serious repercussions on your entire body. While certain hormone levels fluctuate over time as a consequence of normal ageing, other variations occur when your endocrine glands malfunction in some way.

 

How can you tell if you have a hormonal imbalance?

Based on your natural bodily changes and which endocrine gland is affected, the symptoms will vary from one person to another. But, usually, you’ll notice one or more of the following symptoms if you happen to suffer from a hormonal imbalance.

  • Periods becoming irregular - Your cycle may shorten or increase in length due to a fluctuation in progesterone and estrogen levels, which can be a result of perimenopause. Or, it can also be caused by an underlying endocrine disease like PCOS.
  • Problems related to sleep - Progesterone helps you fall asleep, and so, a drop in its levels can make you sleepless. Further, declining levels of your reproductive hormones can also trigger night sweats and hot flashes, which can make it tough to rest well.
  • Persistent acne - Menstrual acne appears at certain times during your cycle and that’s completely normal. But, persistent acne that never clears up can indicate a hormonal issue where your body is producing more male hormones. It increases the oil production in your pores and causes them to become clogged, giving rise to acne.
  • Losing a ton of weight all of a sudden - A fluctuation in your thyroid hormones can cause sudden weight loss. It’s the hormone that helps your body decide how fast to burn your food into energy.
  • Bouts of depression and mood swings - The chemicals in your brain, like dopamine and serotonin, are responsible for how you’re feeling and how your mood is. Your reproductive hormone estrogen is responsible for the levels of these chemicals and when they go lower, you start to suffer from mood swings and depression which can seem to persist.
  • Losing a lot of hair - As your reproductive hormone levels drop, male androgens start to have a bigger impact on your body, causing you to lose hair.
  • Losing your libido - If you suffer from a lowering of testosterone levels in your body, your libido takes a hit.

Othe symptoms may include:

  • A sudden increase in appetite and weight
  • Dealing with vaginal dryness
  • Changes in your breasts
  • Problems with dry skin
  • Memory issues
  • Gut problems

 

What are the probable causes of a hormonal imbalance in women?

There can be several reasons why you may be suffering from a hormonal imbalance:

  • Having PCOS
  • Taking hormonal birth control pills
  • Hitting menopause or going through perimenopause
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Taking a lot of stress
  • Undergoing hormone therapy or hormonal medications
  • Suffering from cancer or taking cancer treatments
  • Dealing with a severe eating disorder
  • Underlying medical conditions like diabetes, thyroid disorders, Cushing syndrome or Addison’s disease

 

What are the tests used to diagnose a hormonal imbalance?

Your doctor will review your symptoms and suggest one or more of the following tests in order to detect a hormonal imbalance:

  • An ultrasound - Doctors may request the get ultrasound images of the hormone-producing glands like your thyroid, uterus, ovaries or pituitary gland. A machine using sound waves can be used to obtain the following images.
  • A blood test - Most hormone levels like thyroid, estrogen, cortisol or testosterone can be detected by a blood test, and a doctor may prescribe one to you.
  • A pelvic exam - Your doctor may perform a pelvic exam to look for any cysts, tumours or other growths.
  • Other tests - Additionally, your doctor may also prescribe an X-ray, MRI, biopsy or a thyroid scan to determine if you have a hormonal imbalance in your body.

 

How do you treat a hormonal imbalance?

Your treatment plan will depend on the cause of your hormonal imbalance, but the following are some of the common treatment options:

  • Make lifestyle changes - Losing some weight, eating well, daily exercise and managing stress levels can help bring your hormonal balance back to normal.
  • Try estrogen therapy - A low dose of estrogen can be prescribed by your doctor to manage uncomfortable symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness and dry skin.
  • Apply a vaginal estrogen cream - Pain during sex and general irritation can occur from vaginal dryness. Your doctor may prescribe an estrogen cream to apply topically to ease your discomfort.
  • Go for thyroid hormone therapy - Taking thyroid medications can help bring your thyroid hormone levels back to normal.
  • Opt for birth control medications - Hormonal birth control pills can help regulate your cycle, improve acne and lessen facial hair, among other things.
  • Look into other medications - Depending on your condition, your doctor may prescribe other medications that best suit your case of hormonal imbalance.

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