Hormones are essential chemicals produced by the glands in the endocrine system and released into the bloodstream to help regulate bodily processes by telling organs what function to perform and when to perform them. Some of the processes regulated by hormones are:
- The heart rate
- Reproductive cycles and sexual functions
- Body temperature
- General growth and development
- Appetite and metabolism
- Moods and stress levels
Hormones play a significant role in both men and women and as such, even small imbalances can cause side effects in the entire body. This article focuses on hormonal imbalance in women, the causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Causes of Hormonal Imbalance in Women
Female Sex Hormones
Before getting into the causes of hormonal imbalances, we need to understand the female sex hormones in women, and their roles.
These hormones are mostly produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands and they include oestrogen and progesterone as well small amounts of testosterone.
- Oestrogen: Did you know that oestrogen is a class of related hormones? Oestrogen is made up of a group of sex hormones namely estrone, oestradiol and estriol.
1. Estrone is a weak form of oestrogen that is found in women after menopause and it is widespread throughout the body.
2. Oestradiol on the other hand, is the strongest form of oestrogen produced by the ovaries. It is the hormone responsible for giving women their female characteristics and sexual functions as well as their bone health. It can also contribute to several gynaecologic problems like fibroids and endometriosis and female cancers like endometrial cancer.
3. Estriol is the weakest form of oestrogen being a waste product that is produced when the body uses oestradiol. Significant amounts of this hormone are made during pregnancy.
- Progesterone: This hormone is produced in the ovaries, placenta and adrenal glands, and its role is to stabilize menstrual cycles and prepare the body for pregnancy. That is why progesterone levels usually increase during ovulation and even more during pregnancy.
- Testosterone: Men and women have both female and male hormones; that is, oestrogen and testosterone. Women have testosterone in lower amounts which affects their menstruation, fertility, sexual desire and red blood cell production as well as bone and tissue mass.
A person’s general health is, among other things, determined by hormone balance. Although hormone levels fluctuate regularly, if it happens over a long period of time, it can cause certain symptoms and conditions. Some of the symptoms that could occur in women due to hormone imbalance are:
- Excess body hair
- Deepening of the voice
- Irregular periods
- Low sex drive
- Tenderness of the breasts
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Gastrointestinal problems, and
- Depression, among several other
What causes these imbalances in hormones?
The treatment of lung cancer depends on the size, location and stage of the cancer. Once the specialist has determined these factors, they can then choose the most appropriate treatment option.
- Underlying health conditions. Some underlying health conditions that can cause hormone imbalance in women include:
1. Polycystic ovary syndrome
2. Diabetes – both type 1 and 2
7. Cancers that affect the endocrine glands
8. Pituitary tumours
12. Injury of the endocrine gland
- Being overweight
- Poor diet and nutrition
- Exposure to toxins, pollutants and other chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system such as herbicides and pesticides.
- Phytoestrogens which are oestrogens that occur naturally in plants like soy products.
Diagnosing Hormone Imbalance in Women
There is no single test to check for hormone imbalance and therefore, if you are experiencing some of the symptoms above and you suspect it might be due to hormone imbalance, you should see a doctor.
The doctor will find out which symptoms you are experiencing and the other possible questions thatt the doctor might ask, apart from how long you have been experiencing the symptoms, are:
- When you had your last period?
- Whether you are stressed than usual?
- Whether you have gained or lost weight recently?
- Whether you are having vaginal dryness or experiencing any pain during sex? Among other questions that may help in the diagnosis.
The doctor can also perform a pelvic exam to check for any tumours, cysts or unusual lumps.
After getting this information, the doctor can order the following tests:
- Blood test: Since most hormones are present in the blood, a sample of your blood can be used to determine the levels of hormones like oestrogen,
- testosterone and cortisol as well as to check the thyroid.
- Ultrasound: In cases where the doctor suspects a problem with the uterus, thyroid, ovaries or pituitary glands, the doctor can get an image of the organs through an ultrasound.
Other tests include:
- Advanced imaging tests using magnetic resonance imaging which provides more detailed images of internal organs.
- Biopsy which involves taking a sample of tissue or cells and analysing them in a laboratory to diagnose an illness or identify a cancer.
Treatment for Hormonal Imbalance in Women
Hormonal imbalance treatment depends on what is causing the imbalance. Some common treatments offered for hormone imbalance in women are:
- Oestrogen therapy: Also known as hormone replacement therapy, this treatment is done using medication to replace hormones the body no longer makes after menopause. It helps to treat menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal discomfort.
- Hormonal birth control: This can help to regulate menstrual cycles and is helpful especially for women who are trying to get pregnant. Some birth control methods are the birth control patch, birth control pill, intrauterine device (IUD) and vaginal ring. Other ways this treatment can help include improving acne and reducing excess hair in the face and body.
- Vaginal oestrogen: Women who experience vaginal dryness or pain during sex can use oestrogen cream, ring or tablet.
- Medications such as:
1. Anti-androgen medications: Androgens are male sex hormones that are found in both men and women. Women who have high androgen levels can have symptoms like acne, hair loss or growth of facial hair and to block the effect of these hormones, anti-androgen medications are used.
2. Metformin: This medication can help women with symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOs).
3. Flibanserin; It is used to treat low sexual drive in women after menopause, but because of its side effects, you should find out from your doctor if this medication is the right one for you.
4. Eflornithine: It is applied to the skin to help women with excessive facial hair by slowing down the growth of new hair.
Other ways to deal with Hormone Imbalance
- Eating a well-balanced diet
- Removing unwanted hair
- Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
- Avoiding hot flashes
- Using lubricants or moisturizers to decrease vaginal discomfort
The majority of women with hormonal imbalance are not aware of their condition and that stops them from getting the treatment that could help with this problem. One of our partner hospitals (Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand) has a Vitallife Wellness Centre which offers hormone screening and hormone rebalancing. This could be part of your wellness check-up package.
The Vitallife Wellness Centre offers comprehensive wellness check-up packages for men and women of all ages.
Contact International Medical Treatment Ltd (IMT) today to book a wellness check-up because your overall health is not only determined by getting treatment for conditions you already have, but also by preventing those you are at risk of suffering from.