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16 September, 2019 00:00 00 AM

What to know about hormonal imbalances

Medical News Today
What to know about hormonal imbalances

Hormonal imbalances occur when there is too much or too little of a hormone in the bloodstream. Because of their essential role in the body, even small hormonal imbalances can cause side effects throughout the body.

Hormones are chemicals that are produced by glands in the endocrine system. Hormones travel through the bloodstream to the tissues and organs, delivering messages that tell the organs what to do and when to do it.

Hormones are important for regulating most major bodily processes, so a hormonal imbalance can affect a wide range of bodily functions. Hormones help to regulate:

metabolism and appetite

heart rate

sleep cycles

reproductive cycles and sexual function

general growth and development

mood and stress levels

body temperature

Men and women alike can be affected by imbalances in insulin, steroids, growth hormones, and adrenaline.

Women may also experience imbalances in estrogen and progesterone levels, while men are more likely to experience imbalances in testosterone levels.

Symptoms

The symptoms of a hormonal imbalance depend on which glands and hormones are affected.

Symptoms associated with the more common causes of hormonal imbalances include:

unexplained weight gain or weight loss

unexplained or excessive sweating

difficulty sleeping

changes in sensitivity to cold and heat

very dry skin or skin rashes

changes in blood pressure

changes in heart rate

brittle or weak bones

changes in blood sugar concentration

irritability and anxiety

unexplained and long-term fatigue

increased thirst

depression

headaches

needing to go to the bathroom more or less than usual

bloating

changes in appetite

reduced sex drive

thinning, brittle hair

infertility

puffy face

blurred vision

a bulge in the neck

breast tenderness

deepening of the voice in females

Causes

Everyone will experience natural periods of hormonal imbalance or fluctuations at particular points in their life.

But hormonal imbalances can also occur when the endocrine glands are not functioning properly.

Endocrine glands are specialized cells that produce, store, and release hormones into the blood. There are several endocrine glands located throughout the body that control different organs, including the:

adrenal glands

gonads (testis and ovaries)

pineal gland

pituitary gland

hypothalamus gland

thyroid and parathyroid glands

pancreatic islets

Several medical conditions are known to impact some, or several, of the endocrine glands. Certain lifestyle habits and environmental factors may also play a role in hormonal imbalances.

Causes of hormonal imbalances include:

chronic or extreme stress

type 1 and type 2 diabetes

hyperglycemia (overproduction of glucagon)

hypoglycemia (more insulin produced than there is glucose in the blood)

underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)

over- or underproduction of the parathyroid hormone

poor diet and nutrition

being overweight

hormonal replacement or birth control medications

abuse of anabolic steroid medications

solitary thyroid nodules

pituitary tumors

Cushing's syndrome (high levels of the hormone cortisol)

Addison's disease (low levels of cortisol and aldosterone)

benign tumors and cysts (fluid-filled sacks) that affect the endocrine glands

congenital adrenal hyperplasia (low levels of cortisol)

endocrine gland injury

severe allergic reactions or infections

cancers that involve endocrine glands

chemotherapy and radiation therapy

iodine deficiency (goiters)

hereditary pancreatitis

Turner syndrome (females with only one functioning X chromosome)

Prader-Willi syndrome

anorexia

phytoestrogens, naturally-occurring plant estrogens found in soy products

exposure to toxins, pollutants, and endocrine disrupting chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides

Hormonal imbalances in women

Women naturally experience several periods of hormonal imbalance throughout their lifetime, including during:

puberty

menstruation

pregnancy, childbirth, and breast-feeding

perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause

Women are also at risk of developing different types of hormonal imbalance disorders than men because they have different endocrine organs and cycles.

Medical conditions causing irregular hormonal imbalances in women include:

polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

hormone replacement or birth control medications

early menopause

primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)

ovarian cancer

Symptoms of hormonal imbalances in women include:

heavy, irregular, or painful periods

osteoporosis (weak, brittle bones)

hot flashes and night sweats

vaginal dryness

breast tenderness

indigestion

constipation and diarrhea

acne during or just before menstruation

uterine bleeding not associated with menstruation

increased hair growth on the face, neck, chest, or back

infertility

weight gain

thinning hair or hair loss

skin tags or abnormal growths

deepening of the voice

clitoral enlargement

Hormonal imbalances in men

Men also experience natural periods of hormonal imbalance during their lifetime.

Natural causes of hormonal imbalances in men include:

puberty

aging

Men are also at risk of developing different hormonal imbalances than women because they have different endocrine organs and cycles.

Medical conditions causing hormonal imbalances in men include:

prostate cancer

hypogonadism (low testosterone)

Symptoms of hormonal imbalances in men include:

reduced sex drive

erectile dysfunction (ED)

low sperm count

reduced muscle mass

reduced body hair growth

overdevelopment of breast tissue

breast tenderness

osteoporosis

Treatment

Treatment for hormonal imbalances may vary depending on the cause. Every person may require different types of treatment for hormonal imbalances.

Treatment options for women with hormone imbalances include:

Hormone control or birth control. For those who are not trying to get pregnant, medications containing forms of estrogen and progesterone can help regulate irregular menstrual cycles and symptoms. People can take birth control medications as a pill, ring, patch, shot, or an intrauterine device (IUD).

Vaginal estrogen. People experiencing vaginal dryness associated with changes in estrogen levels can apply creams containing estrogen directly to vaginal tissues to reduce symptoms. They can also use estrogen tablets and rings to reduce vaginal dryness.

Hormone replacement medications. Medications are available to temporarily reduce severe symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flashes or night sweats.

Eflornithine (Vaniqa). This prescription cream may slow excessive facial hair growth in women.

Anti-androgen medications. Medications that block the predominately male-sex hormone androgen can help limit severe acne and excessive hair growth or loss.

Clomiphene (Clomid) and letrozole (Femara). These medications help stimulate ovulation in people with PCOS who are trying to become pregnant. Those with PCOS and infertility may also be given injections of gonadotropins to help increase the chances of pregnancy.

Assisted reproductive technology. In vitro fertilization (IVF) may be used to help those with PCOS complications get pregnant.

Treatment options for anyone with hormonal imbalances include:

Metformin. A medication for type 2 diabetes, metformin can help manage or lower blood sugar levels.

Levothyroxine. Medications containing levothyroxine, such as Synthroid and Levothroid, can help improve symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Treatment options for men with hormonal imbalances include:

Testosterone medications. Gels and patches containing testosterone can help reduce symptoms of hypogonadism and other conditions that cause low levels of testosterone, such as delayed or stunted puberty.

Natural remedies

People have used natural supplements to treat hormonal imbalances for thousands of years.

However, there are no natural remedies that have been consistently proven in clinical studies to treat hormonal imbalances and their causes, aside from lifestyle changes.

Natural supplements commonly used for the reduction of symptoms associated with hormonal imbalances include:

black cohosh, dong quai, red clover, and evening primrose oil for hot flashes caused by menopause

ginseng for irritability, anxiousness, and sleep disturbances caused by menopause ginseng, and maca for ED

Lifestyle changes that may help reduce the likelihood and symptoms of hormonal imbalances include:

maintaining a healthy body weight

eating a nutritious and balanced diet

exercising regularly

practicing good personal hygiene, focusing on washing areas with a lot of natural oils, such as the face, neck, back, and chest

using over-the-counter acne washes, rinses, and medicated creams or gels for minor to moderate acne

avoiding triggers that cause hot flashes, such as warm weather and spicy, rich, or hot foods and drinks

reducing and managing stress

practicing yoga, meditation, or guided visualization

limiting sugary foods and refined carbohydrates

avoiding packaged foods

replacing older non-stick pans with ceramic pans

using glass containers to store and heat foods and drinks

restricting the use of cleaning products that contain toxic chemicals, such as bleach

buying fruits and vegetables that have not been sprayed with pesticides or ripening chemicals

not microwaving foods and drinks in plastics

Outlook

Nearly everyone experiences at least one or two periods of hormonal imbalance during their lifetime.

Hormonal imbalances are more common during puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy. But some people experience continual, irregular hormonal imbalances.

Many hormonal imbalances are caused by external factors, such as stress or hormone medications. However, hormonal imbalances can also be caused by any medical condition that impacts or involves the endocrine system or glands.

A person should speak to a doctor about long-term unexplained symptoms, especially those that cause pain, discomfort, or interfere with everyday activities.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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