What are hormones?
This term refers to special chemicals produced in the body’s endocrine system which comprises of the hypothalamus, pancreas, adrenal gland, pituitary gland, parathyroid gland, thyroid gland and may other glands. The hormones produced in these glands help to regulate:
- Heart rate
- Metabolism and appetite
- Reproductive cycle and sexual function
- Mood and stress levels
- General growth and development
- Body temperature
- Sleep cycle
This term on the other hand, refers to having too much or too little of a certain hormone in the bloodstream. A small imbalance in hormone can lead to major side effects. This imbalance in hormones can be caused by:
- Some health conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and thyroiditis, among other conditions
- Eating disorders
- Taking certain medications
- High stress levels
- Treatment of cancer
- Injury or trauma
- Certain natural body processes such as pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause, in women
How do you know whether you have hormonal imbalance?
Some of the hormonal imbalance symptoms include:
- Weight gain or loss
- Excessive sweating
- Dry skin or rashes
- Blood pressure changes
- Heart rate changes
- Problems sleeping
- Increased thirst
- Tenderness of breasts
- Deepening of voice in women
- Voice not deepening in men
- Anxiety and irritability
- Irregular periods in women
- Vaginal dryness
- Chronic acne
- Pain during sex
- Breast tissue development in men
- Erectile dysfunction in men
Testing for Hormonal Imbalance
There is no test in particular to check for hormonal imbalance, therefore, during your initial consultation, the doctor will ask what symptoms you are experiencing and carry out a physical exam, after which the doctor can determine which test you should undertake.
- Some tests that can be performed to confirm whether you have hormonal imbalance are:
Blood tests: A blood sample can be used to test for the presence of hormones because most hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone can be detected in the blood.
- Imaging tests: Tests such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to view inside the body and give clear, detailed images of glands like the thyroid gland, the uterus or the testicles.
- Pelvic exam: This is done to check for any abnormalities such as lump or cyst during a pap smear or when examining the scrotum.
Treatments for Hormonal Imbalance
Treatment of hormonal imbalance varies depending on the cause. Some common treatment options are:
- Testosterone therapy: Symptoms of low testosterone in men can be reduced by using testosterone.
- Supplements which can be in gel, patch or injectable form.
- Oestrogen therapy: Using a low dose of testosterone to help reduce the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes.
- Hormonal birth control: Birth control medications like pills and intrauterine device can help regulate irregular menstruation cycle and symptoms.
- Vaginal oestrogen: By using an oestrogen cream, ring or table to treat women who are experiencing vaginal dryness and pain during sex
- Anti-androgen medications: It involves using medications that block predominantly male-sex hormones which can help limit severe acne and excessive hair growth or loss
- Thyroid hormone therapy: People who have hypothyroidism can have their hormone levels put back to balance using synthetic thyroid hormone known as levothyroxine.
Can you prevent hormonal imbalance?
You can be able to reduce your risk of having hormonal imbalance and the symptoms that come with hormonal imbalance by:
- Maintaining a balanced diet
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding heat flash triggers such as warm weather and spicy foods
- Stress management
- Using over the counter acne washes for minor or moderate acne
- Avoiding vaginal discomfort by using moisturizers