Posted October 23, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 4 min read
A hormonal imbalance happens when you have too much or too little of one or more hormones in your body’s chemical messengers. It’s a broad term that can represent many different hormone-related conditions.
What are Hormones?
Hormones are chemicals that coordinate different functions in your body by carrying messages through your blood to your organs, skin, muscles and other tissues.
These signals tell your body what to do and when to do it.
Hormones are essential for life and your health.
Scientists have identified over 50 hormones in the human body so far.
Hormones and most of the tissues (mainly glands) that create and release them make up your endocrine system.
Hormones control many different bodily processes, including:
Homeostasis (constant internal balance).
Growth and development.
What is a Hormonal Imbalance?
A hormonal imbalance happens when you have too much or too little of one or more hormones.
It’s a broad term that can represent many different hormone-related conditions.
Hormones are powerful signals.
For many hormones, having even slightly too much or too little of them can cause major changes to your body and lead to certain conditions that require treatment.
Some hormonal imbalances can be temporary while others are chronic (long-term).
In addition, some hormonal imbalances require treatment so you can stay physically healthy, while others may not impact your health but can negatively affect your quality of life.
What are the signs and symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance?
Because your body makes over 50 different hormones all of which contribute to important bodily functions you could experience symptoms depending on which hormonal imbalance you have.
It’s important to know that many of the following symptoms could be caused by other conditions, not just from a hormonal imbalance.
If you ever notice a change in your day-to-day health and are experiencing new, persistent symptoms, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider no matter what you think the cause might be.
Symptoms of hormonal imbalances that affect your metabolism include:
Slow heartbeat or rapid heartbeat (tachycardia).
Unexplained weight gain or weight loss.
Diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements.
Numbness and tingling in your hands.
Higher-than-normal blood cholesterol levels.
Depression or anxiety.
Being unable to tolerate cold temperatures or warm temperatures.
Dry, coarse skin and hair.
Thin, warm and moist skin.
Irregular body fat distribution.
Darkened skin in your armpit or the back and sides of your neck (acanthosis nigricans).
Skin tags (small skin growths).
Extreme thirst and frequent urination.
Can Hormone Imbalance cause weight gain?
Yes, certain hormone imbalances can cause weight gain, including:
Hypothyroidism: This condition happens when you have low levels of thyroid hormone, which causes your metabolism to slow down. This can cause weight gain.
Cushing’s syndrome: This is a rare condition that happens when your body has too much of a hormone called cortisol. It results in rapid weight gain in your face (sometimes called ‘moon face’), belly, back of your neck (sometimes called ‘buffalo hump’) and chest.
Menopause: During menopause, many people assigned female at birth gain weight due to hormonal changes that cause their metabolism to slow down. It’s important to remember that this type of “hormonal imbalance” is natural and an expected part of life.
What causes Hormonal Imbalances?
Certain periods of life cause more dramatic changes and fluctuations in hormones, including:
However, there are several other reasons why your hormone levels may be irregular at unexpected times. Some of the most common causes of fluctuating or imbalanced hormone levels include:
These hormonal imbalances are more likely to be temporary or fixable with a change in medication or properly managing stress.
Chronic hormone-related conditions can have several different possible causes. In general, the main conditions or situations that cause medically significant hormone imbalances include:
Tumors, adenomas or other growths.
Damage or injury to an endocrine gland.
How are Hormonal Imbalances diagnosed?
Healthcare providers typically order blood tests to check hormone levels since your endocrine glands release hormones directly into your bloodstream.
Certain hormone levels vary drastically throughout the day, so providers may order other tests to measure your levels, such as a glucose tolerance test or insulin tolerance test.
Your provider will also ask you about your medical history and symptoms and perform a physical exam.
How are Hormonal Imbalances treated?
Treatment for a hormonal imbalance will depend on what’s causing it.
If you have lower-than-normal hormone levels, the main treatment is hormone replacement therapy.
Depending on which hormone is deficient, you may take oral medication (pills) or injection medication.
For example, if you have low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism), your provider can prescribe synthetic thyroid hormone pills.
If you have growth hormone deficiency, you’ll likely have to take injections (shots) of synthetic growth hormone.
If you have higher-than-normal hormone levels, there are many treatment options depending on the cause.
Options include medication, surgery, radiation therapy or a combination of any of these.
For example, if you have a prolactinoma, a benign (noncancerous) tumor that causes excess prolactin (a hormone), your provider may prescribe a medication to shrink the tumor or you may need surgery to remove it.