Hormone Imbalance Symptoms Causes Diagnosis
Hormonal Imbalance Overview
Hormones are considered to be the body’s chemical “messengers.” Hormones are produced within the endocrine glands and they move throughout the bloodstream instructing tissues and organs how to operate. They also help control many major processes in the body such as reproduction and metabolism.
If you have a hormonal imbalance it is simply too little or too much of a certain hormone. Small changes in hormone levels can affect the whole body in significant ways. Some hormone levels naturally fluctuate over a person’s lifetime, but if the endocrine glands are not functioning optimally too much or too little of a hormone may get produced and lead to imbalance.
Some Signs and Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance
Since hormone are an essential part of overall health there are actually many signs signs and symptoms that can indicate hormonal imbalance. The signs and symptoms can depend on which glands or hormones are not functioning well. Hormonal imbalances affect both women and men and can cause the following:
- Muscle tenderness, stiffness, aches, and/or weakness
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and/or pain
- Decreased or increased heart rate
- Sweating and/or night sweats
- More frequent urination
- More frequent bowel movements
- Increased hunger and/or thirst
- Anxiety, nervousness, irritability, and/or depression
- Decreased libido
- Puffy and/or rounded face
- Thinning of the hair
- Dry skin
- Blurred vision
- Stretch marks that are purple or pink in color
Please note that these signs and symptoms are considered “nonspecific”, so if you have one or some of these it does not necessarily indicate hormonal imbalance. There are also specific symptoms that can manifest in children and teenagers, so if you suspect any imbalance for a child or teenager going through puberty it is important to consult with a doctor.
Some Signs and Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance in Females
For females (of reproductive age) one of the most common issues caused by hormonal imbalance is PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). Women’s hormonal cycles also naturally change during puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause.
Signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalances for women can include:
- Hair loss and/or hirsutism (excessive hair growth)
- Irregular periods (including missed periods or frequent periods)
- Heavy periods
- Darkening of skin, most often underneath breasts, in groin, or along creases of neck
- Skin tags
- Vaginal dryness or atrophy
- Pain during intercourse
- Night sweats and/or hot flashes
- Headaches and/or migraines
Some Signs and Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance in Males
For males the hormone testosterone plays a major role in development. If enough testosterone is not being produced various symptoms may arise.
Signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance for males can include :
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Breast tenderness
- Gynecomastia (development of extra breast tissue)
- Decreased body hair and beard growth
- Decrease in muscle mass
- Osteoporosis (decrease of bone mass)
- Difficulty maintaining concentration
- Hot flashes
There are various causes of hormonal imbalance and these differ according to which glands or hormones are affected. Common causes include hormone therapy, medications, cancer treatments, tumors, eating disorders, stress, trauma or injury. There are also some conditions that may be caused or triggered by hormonal imbalances, which can then lead to further imbalances such as diabetes (types 1 and 2), hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Cushing syndrome, as well as several others.
There are also some causes of hormonal imbalances that are unique to women because of how reproductive hormones function in women’s bodies. Common causes of hormonal imbalance in women can include (but are not limited to) menopause, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and the use of birth control.
While there is no single test that can specifically diagnose hormonal imbalance, there are various diagnostic tests that doctors can use to help make a diagnosis. Diagnosis will often involved a thorough inquiry into your health history and timeline of your specific symptoms. For women doctors will often look at the history and outline of a woman’s cycle. Blood tests, pelvic exams, ultrasounds, and other tests such as x-ray, thyroid scans, and sperm count tests are all tests used to help diagnose hormonal imbalance depending on a patient’s symptoms.
There are also at-home tests that can be helpful for testing for certain hormonal imbalances depending on your symptoms. A pharmacist can help you determine which at-home test might be appropriate for you.
Hormones are connected to many processes in the body, if there are hormonal imbalances, signs and symptoms can be quite varied. Since imbalances can cause various serious health issues it is important to consult with a doctor as soon as you have any concerns.