What is Hormonal Imbalance in Women?
Female Hormonal Imbalance occurs when hormones rise above or drop below normal levels in the bloodstream. Hormones are chemicals produced by glands in the endocrine system that tell your cells, tissues, and organs what to do. Hormones help regulate many important functions in the body:
- body temperature
- heart rate
- reproductive cycles
Hormone levels in women normally fluctuate at certain times, such as before or during menstruation, during pregnancy or during menopause. Female hormone imbalance is common in adrenaline, steroid hormones, growth hormones, insulin, estrogen or progesterone (a hormone produced by your ovaries that helps you sleep).
Bloating, weight gain, fatigue, mood swings and spikes in body temperature are only some of the many symptoms of hormonal imbalance in women. Delayed or skipped periods can also be caused by hormone imbalances. These imbalances can impact personal comfort, focus, health, work performance, and relationships with loved ones. Hormonal imbalance symptoms in females include:
- Night sweats
- Reduced interest in sexual activity
- Mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Deepened voice
- Altered heart rate •
- Soreness in breasts
- Swollen face
- Difficulty concentrating
- Bloating (body)
- Weight gain
- Weight loss
- More or less frequent urination or bowel movements
- Dry skin
- Skin rashes
- Bulge in the neck
- Weak bones
- Thin hair
- Hair loss
- Changes in blood sugar
- Changes in sensitivity to heat or cold
- Vision problems
- Enlarged clitoris
- Long-lasting fatigue
Women often experience hormonal imbalance at predictable and naturally occurring points in their lives (menstruation, puberty, pregnancy and menopause). Certain medical conditions, lifestyle habits, environmental conditions, and endocrine gland malfunctions can be other causes of hormonal imbalance in females. Endocrine glands are cells located throughout the body that generate, store, and unleash hormones into the bloodstream. Different endocrine glands regulate different organs. Causes of hormonal imbalance in women include:
- Unhealthy diet
- Excessive stress
- High percentage of body fat
- Pituitary tumors
- Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
- Prader-Willi syndrome (genetic condition marked by chronic hunger)
- Hereditary pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- Injury to the endocrine gland
- Extreme infections
- Toxins, pollutants, herbicides and pesticides
- Severe allergic reactions
- Abuse of anabolic steroid medications
- Having only one functioning X chromosome (known as Turner syndrome and can cause heart and ovary defects)
- Overactive or underactive thyroid
- Phytoestrogens, natural plant estrogens in soy products (estrogen dominance is linked to breast cancer, ovarian cancer, infertility and autoimmune disorders)
- High levels of glucagon (can lead to diabetes-like symptoms) • High levels of insulin
- Too much or too little parathyroid hormone (helps balance the levels of calcium in the bloodstream)
- Birth control medications
- Hormonal replacement medications
- Benign tumors or cysts that impact the endocrine glands
- Cancers that impact the endocrine glands
- Chemotherapy or radiation
- Solitary thyroid nodules (usually a non-lethal growth, although they can be a possible sign of throat cancer)
- High levels of cortisol hormone
- Too little cortisol and aldosterone (also known as Addison’s Disease, a condition sharing many of the symptoms of hormonal imbalance in women, including extreme fatigue, irritability and sexual dysfunction)
- Deficient levels of iodine
Medical conditions that can cause hormone imbalances in women include ovarian cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), early menopause, hormone replacement or birth control medications, and primary ovarian insufficiency (POI).
A single, all-inclusive female hormone imbalance test does not exist. Your doctor will start with a routine medical exam, inquire about your symptoms, and may recommend the following tests to diagnose hormonal imbalance:
- Blood test: A blood test can measure most hormone levels.
- Pelvic exam: A pelvic exam can reveal any unnatural lumps, cysts or tumors
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to capture images of your uterus, ovaries, thyroid and pituitary gland.
- Other tests: Other possible tests might include X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs), biopsies or thyroid scans.
Treatment for hormonal imbalances is determined by the specific cause and highly tailored to each individual woman. Each female may require a different regimen of treatment. Medical treatments and lifestyle changes show the best long-term results. Medical treatment options for women with hormone imbalances include:
- Hormone control or birth control medication. These medications contain estrogen and progesterone that can help manage menstrual cycles (and related symptoms). The available options for birth control medications are pills, rings, patches, shots or intrauterine devices (IUDs)
- Hormone replacement medications. Women can take medications to temporarily ease the symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes or night sweats.
- Anti-androgen medications. These medications impede the hormone androgen and can help minimize extreme acne, hair growth or even hair loss.
- Vaginal estrogen. In this treatment, a female applies creams containing estrogen directly to vaginal tissues to reduce symptoms. Estrogen tablets and rings can also reduce vaginal dryness.
- Clomiphene and letrozole. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or infertility can take medications to accelerate ovulation. Injections of gonadotropins might also help increase the likelihood of pregnancy.
- Assisted reproductive technology. In vitro fertilization (IVF) may help those with PCOS become pregnant.
- Metformin. This medication usually taken for Type 2 Diabetes can help lower or balance blood sugar levels.
- Levothyroxine. This is a chemical found in medications that can reduce the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Lifestyle habits can also prevent or reduce female hormonal imbalance. These habits include:
- Maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Performing regular physical exercise.
- Eating a balanced, nutritious diet.
- Reducing stress.
- Practicing self-regulation (deep breathing, yoga, positive visualization and meditation) to manage stress.
- Washing and cleaning your face, hands, chest and neck.
- Avoiding spicy foods and drinks that can trigger hot flashes.
- Reducing the use of household cleaners with toxic chemicals.
- Minimizing sugary foods and packaged foods.
- Cooking with ceramic pans instead of older non-stick pans.
- Purchasing organic fruits and vegetables that have not been sprayed with pesticides.
- Scheduling regular healthcare appointments to assess health.
If you or a loved one experiences any of the symptoms of hormonal imbalance, Baptist Health can help.
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