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Hormonal Imbalance: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Jenna Hilton
September 22, 2022

Hormones are chemical messengers in our body that carry directives to different organs, “telling” them what to do and regulating their functions. With the glands that produce them, they make up the endocrine system, which coordinates our metabolism, reproduction, growth, sleeping cycle, blood sugar, and many other biological processes.

This article explains the symptoms and causes of hormonal imbalance, and how we can get our endocrine system back to optimal functioning.

Hormonal imbalance symptoms and treatments

What Is a Hormonal Imbalance?

Hormones naturally increase and decrease throughout our lives. However, unexpected or long-term hormonal fluctuations result in a hormonal imbalance. Having too few or too many of one or more hormones prevents them from delivering the messages properly, disrupting the functions of the organs that receive them.

There are varying degrees of hormonal imbalance and the effects it can have on our bodies differ from person to person. Sometimes the patient’s health is compromised, requiring medical attention and therapy. In other cases, the treatment is optional, depending on how the patient feels. If the symptoms are mild, the patient may be able to restore hormonal balance with a change in lifestyle habits.

Hormonal Imbalance Symptoms

Scientists have identified over 50 hormones in humans up to date. Since hormonal imbalance can be due to one or a group of hormones, symptoms are varied and can resemble those of other health issues. That’s why it is important to contact your medical provider and perform necessary lab tests if you notice changes in your day-to-day well-being.

Some hormonal imbalance symptoms are specific to a particular sex or age.

Men typically experience these hormonal imbalance symptoms:

  • Low sex drive due to low testosterone levels.
  • Erectile dysfunction due to low testosterone levels.
  • Loss of muscle mass due to low testosterone levels.
  • Thinning hair and reduced hair growth due to reduced androgen hormones.
  • Gynecomastia (enlarged breasts) due to estrogen and testosterone fluctuations.
  • Hormonal acne due to excess testosterone.

Note: Learn how testosterone therapy restores optimal levels of this hormone.


For women, the most common hormonal imbalance symptoms include:

  • Heavy or irregular menstrual cycles due to changing levels of estrogen and progesterone
  • Infertility caused by insufficient progesterone levels
  • Low sex drive caused by decreased estrogen or high cortisol levels
  • Vaginal dryness caused by a drop in estrogen levels around menopause
  • Sudden and unexplained weight loss or gain (particularly around the abdomen) due to low thyroid hormones or high cortisol levels
  • Night sweats due to estrogen fluctuations in perimenopause
  • Mood swings caused by estrogen and progesterone fluctuations which decrease serotonin levels
  • Insomnia due to estrogen and progesterone fluctuations during pregnancy and around menopause
  • Hirsutism (excessive hair growth on the face, chin, and other areas) due to rising levels of androgens, common in a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Hair loss due to high testosterone, high cortisol, or high or low thyroid hormones
  • Darkened skin on the armpits, neck, and underneath the breasts due to fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone
  • Hormonal acne due to excess testosterone, progesterone, and falling estrogen

Note: Learn how perimenopause differs from premenopause and menopause.


When they reach puberty, children get acne due to natural fluctuations in sex hormones. However, some children experience hypogonadism, a condition where the glands don’t produce sex hormones, and the child doesn’t enter puberty. Children may experience the following:

  • Menstruation doesn’t begin.
  • Breasts don’t develop in girls.
  • The penis and testicles don’t grow.
  • The voice doesn’t deepen in boys.
  • Growth is slower than in other children.
  • Muscle mass doesn’t increase.
  • Body hair is sparse.

Other signs of hormonal imbalance unrelated to sex and age include:

  • Faster or slower heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Muscle weakness, tenderness, or pain
  • Tingling in the hands
  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Intolerance to warm or cold temperatures
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme thirst
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry, brittle skin and hair
  • Warm and moist skin
  • Skin tags

Hormonal Imbalance Causes

It is normal for hormones to fluctuate throughout the day. However, chronic and dramatic changes in our hormone levels often compromise our health. Certain periods in life, lifestyle factors, and medical issues are common causes of hormonal imbalances.

Life phases

  • Puberty
  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • Menopause

These are naturally occurring causes of hormonal imbalances. The symptoms they cause don’t endanger our health and don’t require treatment, but patients often seek help to alleviate discomfort and improve their quality of life.

Lifestyle factors

  • Poor nutrition
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Chronic lack of sleep
  • Chronic stress
  • Excessive smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Exposure to environmental pollutants
  • Medications and therapies (e.g., hormone therapy, steroids, chemotherapy)

Medical conditions

  • Tumors, such as pituitary tumors, prostate cancer, ovarian and breast cancer, etc.
  • Adenomas, or benign tumors
  • Cysts, lumps, and other growths on endocrine glands
  • Injury to an endocrine gland due to surgery, excessive blood loss, or head trauma
  • Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s, Graves’ disease, etc.
  • Diabetes
  • Cushing’s syndrome, a disorder in which the body produces too much cortisol
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a disorder in which the body produces low levels of cortisol
  • Hyperthyroidism, when the thyroid gland produces too many thyroid hormones
  • Hypothyroidism, when the thyroid gland produces insufficient thyroid hormones
  • Viral or bacterial infections
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome

How Is Hormonal Imbalance Diagnosed?

Endocrinologists are doctors specialized in treating endocrine disorders. However, a primary care physician can also diagnose a hormonal imbalance and provide adequate therapy.

The doctor performs a physical exam and asks the patient a series of questions about the symptoms and their duration. This can help the medical provider narrow down potential glands/hormones that are causing health issues and prescribe adequate tests.

Standard testing for hormonal imbalances includes:

Blood testing

Medical providers usually order blood tests to check the patient’s thyroid hormones, sex hormones, glucose, or insulin levels.

Urine testing

Urine tests can show the levels of hormones that regulate menstrual cycles, such as the follicle-stimulating hormone.

Ultrasound, MRI, X-ray scans

Doctors order imaging tests if they suspect the existence of a growth (e.g., tumor or cyst) that is causing a hormonal imbalance.

Pelvic exam

Another way to identify potential lumps and growths is to physically examine reproductive organs and do a Pap smear test (for women).

Contact your medical provider if you experience symptoms that negatively affect your daily life. The doctor will determine if the symptoms are caused by a hormonal imbalance and prescribe therapy.

Hormonal Imbalance Treatment

Different treatments exist for hormonal disorders based on which hormones are out of balance and the severity of symptoms.

Hormone replacement therapy

Hormone replacement therapy is designed for patients suffering from a reduction in hormone levels. Women who experience uncomfortable menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, low libido, and urinary incontinence, can benefit from individualized bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. The therapy is in the form of a pill, gel, cream, or a vaginal ring and typically includes a dose of estrogen, or estrogen and progesterone.

Male hormone replacement therapy is designed to help patients with erectile dysfunction, mental fog, sleep issues, and other issues that appear with aging. The therapy comes in the form of injections, patches, pellets, or gels and includes a dose of testosterone.

Medication

Patients suffering from excess hormones are prescribed medication to block their effects. Medications include:

  • Hormonal birth control pills, which regulate menstrual cycles and reduce acne and facial hair
  • Anti-androgen pills, which reduce the effects of high testosterone levels, acne, and facial hair
  • Thyroid medications such as thionamides, which normalize thyroid hormone levels

Surgery

In cases where hormonal imbalance is caused by a tumor or a thyroid gland disorder, medical providers recommend surgery.

Lifestyle changes

The best way to keep your hormones in check is to maintain healthy lifestyle habits, including:

  • A balanced, nutritious diet
  • Regular physical activity
  • Quality sleep
  • Avoiding stress
  • Avoiding nicotine and alcohol

Conclusion

Hormones are an integral part of our biological system. Their imbalance can lead to many health issues, especially if you ignore the symptoms and don’t seek proper treatment.

Our experienced medical professionals at Vibrant Vitality Clinic are dedicated to helping patients with hormonal disorders reduce the risk of severe illness and improve their quality of life. Visit us today to begin your healing journey!

Jenna Hilton
Jenna Hilton has been a practicing PA since 2009, specializing in Family, Internal Medicine and Medical Aesthetics. She attended Arizona State University where she received her Bachelor's Degree and graduated magna cum laude. She received her Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies from A.T. Still University.

Jenna has been injecting neurotoxin and dermal filler since 2013. She received certification as a Master Injector in 2017 through Empire Medical in Los Angeles, California. She is currently working on a Fellowship Program in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine through the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Her special interests include use of PLLA, Ablative/Non ablative skin resurfacing, PDO threads, hormone therapy and nutritional therapies to improve cellular regeneration and medically supervised weight loss.

Jenna Hilton believes in a multi-factorial approach, considering internal factors that accelerate aging and disease development. She always enjoys teaching. She co-founded Vibrant EDU courses at Vibrant Skin Bar and regularly performs one-on-one training with fellow injectors. She teaches Aesthetic and Advanced Injectable Courses at National Laser Institute. She has been named Preceptor of the Year and is an Adjunct Faculty Member at Midwestern University. She was born in Iowa, and lives with her husband and three children in Phoenix, AZ.

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