Are You A Having Hormonal Imbalance?

Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. They are produced in the endocrine glands, and they travel in the bloodstream carrying messages to the tissues and organs instructing them what to do. They also contribute in managing energy levels, metabolism, reproduction, etc.

The following hormones significantly affect women:

  • Estrogen - Produced mainly in the ovaries but minimal amounts are also produced in the adrenal glands, fat cells and in the placenta during pregnancy. Estrogen is responsible for reproductive and sexual development.
  • Progesterone - Produced in the ovaries after ovulation and in the placenta during pregnancy. Progesterone helps in preparing the lining of the uterus for the fertilized egg, supports pregnancy and suppresses estrogen production after ovulation. It is also present in oral contraceptives that help trick the body to not ovulate.
  • Testosterone - Produced in small amounts in the adrenal glands and the ovaries. Testosterone is responsible in regulating the menstrual cycle, strengthening the bone and muscle and boosting sexual desire.

Hormonal imbalance occurs when there is too much or too little of hormones in the bloodstream. Because of the essential role hormones play, even small imbalances can create problems. Some hormones fluctuate throughout your lifetime and may just be an effect of aging. In women, hormonal imbalance occurs naturally during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause.

Lifestyle and other environmental factors also affect hormones, which may be one or a combination of the following:

  • Chronic or extreme stress
  • Poor diet and nutrition
  • Being overweight
  • Hormone replacement or birth control medications
  • Abuse of anabolic steroid medications
  • Severe allergic reactions or infections
  • Exposure to toxins, pollutants and endocrine-disputing chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides

Hormonal imbalance in women can also be caused by certain illnesses, such as:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Hormone replacement or birth control medications
  • Early menopause
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)
  • Ovarian cancer

Hormonal Imbalance Symptoms

The symptoms of hormonal imbalance depend on the hormone and whether or not the levels are low or high.

Low estrogen levels, you may experience:

  • Fewer periods
  • Periods that completely stop
  • Hot flashes
  • Dry skin
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Night sweats
  • Dryness in the vagina
  • Thinning of the vaginal walls
  • Low sex drive
  • Mood swings

High estrogen levels, you may experience:

  • Weight gain around the hips, waist, and thighs
  • Light or heavy bleeding during menstruation
  • Worsening symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • The presence of non-cancerous breast lumps
  • Feeling of tiredness
  • Lack of desire for sex
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Low/high progesterone levels, generally, do not have health impact.

High testosterone levels, you may experience:

  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • More body hair
  • May develop frontal balding
  • Acne
  • Enlarged clitoris
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Deep voice

High testosterone levels can also be seen in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

If you’re experiencing one or more symptoms above, you might have hormonal imbalance, but please consult your doctor for proper treatment and diagnosis. Depending on the symptoms you’re experiencing, your doctor might recommend the following tests and exams for you:

  • Blood test – To check your thyroid and levels of estrogen, testosterone and cortisol.
  • Pelvic exam – A Pap smear for women, this is to detect lumps, cysts or tumors.
  • Ultrasound – To take images of your uterus, ovaries, thyroid or pituitary gland.
  • Other tests:
    • Biopsy
    • MRI
    • X-ray
    • Thyroid scan

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