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Hormone Imbalance: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Hormone Imbalance: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

By Mike Kocsis | 10 minutes read | Last updated: April 15, 2024
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  • Medically Reviewed by Dr. George Touliatos

    Evidence Based Research

    Hormones are small chemical messengers that perform many big roles in the body. To ensure optimal functioning, they must remain balanced within the body. Having too much or too little of a hormone can disrupt normal body functioning, leading to a variety of symptoms and health issues. Hormone imbalance refers to a condition in which the normal equilibrium of hormones in the body is disrupted. It can occur due to multiple factors, including stress, medications, ageing, etc.

    This article provides a complete overview of hormone imbalance, covering its causes, signs, diagnosis, treatment, and more.

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    Signs of hormone imbalance

    Hormone imbalance produces various symptoms in the body, depending on which hormone is not working properly. Common signs of hormonal conditions that affect people of all genders are:

    Keep in mind these symptoms can develop due to many other medical conditions. Having them does not necessarily mean you have a hormone imbalance. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor who will help you determine the root cause.

     

    Hormone imbalance symptoms in females

    Women may experience the following symptoms due to hormone imbalance.

    • Night sweats
    • Unexpected weight gain
    • Irregular periods
    • Infertility
    • Vaginal dryness
    • Vaginal atrophy
    • Hair loss
    • Facial or body hair growth
    • Low sex drive
    • Mood swings
    • Hyperpigmentation

     

    Hormone imbalance symptoms in males

    In men, the following symptoms appear due to abnormal fluctuations in their hormone levels.

    • Increase in male breast size
    • Breast tenderness
    • Erectile dysfunction
    • Low sex drive
    • Infertility
    • Low energy levels
    • Muscle loss
    • Brittle bones
    • Hair loss
    • Difficulty concentrating

     

    What causes hormone imbalance?

    Hormone level fluctuations at a particular point in life, such as pregnancy, puberty, and menopause, are a normal part of life. But, they can also occur when your endocrine glands fail to function normally.

    Endocrine glands are special structures that produce, release, and store hormones. Several medical conditions, lifestyle habits, and environmental factors can disturb endocrine glands, leading to hormonal irregularities.

     

    Common medical conditions that cause hormone imbalance are:

    • Genetic disorders like Cushing’s syndrome, Addison’s disease, and Klinefelter’s syndrome
    • Hypogonadism
    • Hyperthyroidism
    • Brain tumour
    • Brain injury
    • Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
    • Pancreatitis
    • Goiter
    • Menopause
    • PCOS
    • Injury to an adrenal gland
    • Cancer-related to an adrenal gland

     

    The following lifestyle habits can also contribute to hormone imbalance.

    • Poor eating habits
    • Stress
    • Inadequate sleep
    • Lack of physical activity
    • Excessive consumption of alcohol
    • Drug abuse
    • Having overweight

     

    These environmental factors can lead to hormonal problems:

    • Air pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
    • Plastics containing bisphenol A
    • Birth control pills
    • Hormone replacement therapies
    • Chemotherapy
    • Radiations

     

    How do doctors test for hormone imbalance?

    Doctors use different methods to diagnose hormone imbalance. They suggest tests based on your symptoms and the suspected hormonal issue. The results of these tests help them formulate an effective treatment plan.

    Medical history: Your doctor will ask different questions to get information about your health. They may ask questions about your diet, surgeries, medications, supplements, allergies, illnesses, and vaccines.

    Physical examination: This is done to look for the signs of hormonal imbalance. The following aspects may be important for hormone imbalance.

    • General appearance (weight, skin tone, signs of fluid retention, and hair growth)
    • Vital signs (temperature, heartbeat, and blood pressure)
    • Palpation
    • Breast and pelvic examination
    • Neurological assessment

     

    Hormone imbalance test: They may suggest one or more of the following diagnostic tests.

    • Blood tests: Levels of most of the hormones can be detected through blood. Your doctor will collect and send your blood sample to the laboratory for examination. Since hormones fluctuate throughout the day, these blood samples are drawn at a particular time for accurate results.
    • Saliva or urine tests: Some hormones are tested using saliva or urine samples.
    • Imaging tests: These tests are used to visualise glands or organs associated with hormone production. Commonly used imaging tests are ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, X-ray, and thyroid scan.
    • Additional tests: The following tests can also be used to diagnose specific hormonal abnormalities.
      • Sperm count test
      • Biopsy
      • Genetic tests
      • Stimulation or suppression tests

     

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    How to fix hormone imbalance?

    Treatment for hormone imbalance depends on its underlying cause. For instance, if you have this problem due to drug addiction, your doctor will most likely ask you to first get rid of this addiction. Doing so will eventually remove your hormonal issues.

    Sometimes bringing healthy lifestyle changes can be the ultimate solution to a hormonal problem. For instance, studies indicate obesity increases the risk of testosterone deficiency in men. If your weight is influencing your testosterone levels, reducing it can help you restore your testosterone levels.

    Similarly, managing stress, getting adequate sleep, becoming more physically active, reducing the intake of alcohol, and consuming a balanced diet are a few more lifestyle changes that can regulate hormone production in people.

    In certain cases, changing lifestyle does not make a big difference; therefore, doctors prescribe approved medical procedures like testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), oestrogen theory, etc.

     

    Treatment of hormone imbalance

    Doctors may use the following medical procedures to balance your hormone levels.

    Treatments for females

    Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): It involves the use of medications that increase the level of hormones that the body may no longer be able to produce in sufficient quantities, particularly during menopause. There are two types of HRT for women – oestrogen-only therapy and combination therapy.

    In oestrogen-only therapy, you take only oestrogen to alleviate low oestrogen symptoms. Oestrogen can be administered as a pill, patch, gel, or cream.

    In combination therapy, both oestrogen and progesterone are used in the right proportion. It is typically used for women who have a uterus, while the former is prescribed for women who have undergone a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus).

     

    Vaginal oestrogen: Women experiencing oestrogen imbalance can develop vaginal dryness that causes pain during sex. You can use oestrogen cream to eradicate this problem.

    Birth control pills: If you are not trying to get pregnant, taking hormonal birth control pills can help you regulate your menstrual cycle. These pills may also be effective in removing acne and facial hair.

    Anti-androgen medications: Androgens are male sex hormones present in both men and women. They are primarily associated with male sexual development and characteristics. Women produce lower levels of androgens compared to men.

    However, a hormonal abnormality can lead to high androgen levels in women. For this, doctors often prescribe anti-androgen medications that reduce effects of androgens.  

     

    Treatments for males

    Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT): It is an FDA-approved procedure used to increase testosterone levels in men who are testosterone deficient. Testosterone levels decline in men as they get older. But certain medical problems can also cause this issue. 

    Low testosterone (low T) causes various symptoms, such as fatigue, low libido, depression, and loss of muscle mass. TRT is very effective in restoring testosterone levels to a normal range and alleviating low T symptoms.

     

    More about testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)

    Testosterone can be administered in different forms, giving men options based on their preferences and needs. Common types of TRT are:

    • Injections: They are available in different formulations and doses. They are injected into the muscle, usually the gluteal muscles.
    • Patches: They are typically applied to dry, clean skin every day. They slowly release testosterone into the skin and provide its consistent supply for 24 hours.
    • Gels and creams: Topical testosterone is applied to the skin, typically on the shoulders, upper arms, or abdomen, every 24 hours. Testosterone enters the bloodstream through the skin. 
    • Pellets: They are implanted under the skin through a minor surgical procedure. They provide a consistent testosterone supply for up to 6 months, after which the old pellet is replaced with the fresh one.

     

    FAQs

    Can hormone imbalance cause weight gain?

    Yes, it can. Hormones play an important role in regulating metabolism, appetite, fat storage, and the way your body uses energy. When hormone levels become imbalanced, it can disrupt these processes, leading to weight gain or difficulty in losing weight. Imbalances in testosterone, insulin, and thyroid hormones may cause weight gain.

    Can hormone imbalance cause anxiety?

    Many hormones control mood, emotions, and the functioning of the nervous system. When their levels become abnormal in the body, they can lead to anxiety symptoms and disturb your emotional well-being.

    When is the best time to test for hormone imbalance?

    It depends on the specific hormone being assessed. For instance, if you have a testosterone test, the best time for this test is the morning because testosterone levels are the highest between 07.00 am and 10.00 am.

     

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    Summing it up

    Hormone imbalance is a common problem among men and women, affecting millions of people annually. While it can go away on its own, it often requires appropriate treatment.

    Doctors use different methods to address hormonal problems based on their underlying causes. If you are experiencing symptoms of hormone imbalance mentioned earlier, it is advisable to consult a hormone specialist or get in touch with us by clicking the button above. At Balance My Hormones, we can assist you in identifying the cause of your symptoms, initiating an effective treatment plan, and ultimately improving your overall well-being.

     

    References/Further reading/Bibliography/Scientific studies

    Brucker-Davis, F., Thayer, K. and Colborn, T., 2001. Significant effects of mild endogenous hormonal changes in humans: considerations for low-dose testing. Environmental Health Perspectives109(suppl 1), pp.21-26.

    Pataky, M.W., Young, W.F. and Nair, K.S., 2021, March. Hormonal and metabolic changes of aging and the influence of lifestyle modifications. In Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Vol. 96, No. 3, pp. 788-814). Elsevier.

    Polackwich, A.S., Tadros, N.N., Ostrowski, K.A. and Hedges, J.C., 2013. Benefits and consequences of testosterone replacement therapy: a review. European Endocrinology9(1), p.59.

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    This article has been researched and written based on scientific evidence and fact sheets that have then been crossed checked by our team of doctors and subject matter experts.

    References, sources and studies used alongside our own in-house research have been cited below, most of which contain external clickable links to reviewed scientific paper that contain date stamped evidence.

    Our team of healthcare experts and GMC registered doctors are licensed to UK GMC standards. We strive to provide you with the latest evidence based, researched articles that are unbiased, honest and provide you with accurate insights, statistics and helpful information on the discussed topic to ensure you gain a better understanding of the subject. You can read more about our Editorial Process by clicking here.

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    About the Author: Mike Kocsis

    Mike KocsisMike Kocsis has an MBA with a focus on healthcare administration and is an entrepreneur and medical case manager for Balance My Hormones Ltd which offers medical services in the UK and Europe. Mike has over 20 years of experience in the healthcare sector, much of that working with people who have hormone imbalances. Mike has appeared on podcasts and radio and is an expert speaker on the subject of hormone imbalance. He specialises in Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) and Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and has helped thousands of people suffering from hormone imbalances recover and regain control of their lives. You can follow him on LinkedIn and on the Balance My Hormones YouTube Channel.

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