When we talk about hormonal imbalance, most of us may associate it with women’s menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. But this doesn’t mean it’s not present in men. So, what exactly is hormonal imbalance, its symptoms, causes, and how do females and males experience it differently? Here is an overview.
What is hormonal imbalance?
The glands in the endocrine system produce chemicals that we call hormones. They deliver messages telling the organs what and when to do certain functions by traveling through the bloodstream to reach the different parts of our body. Hormones help regulate most of the body’s major processes, so even the smallest hormonal imbalances can cause drastic changes in many bodily functions.
Some of the functions that hormones help to regulate are heart rate, metabolism and appetite, sleep cycles, sexual function, reproductive cycles, body temperature, stress levels, and general growth and development.
Imbalances in growth hormones, steroids, insulin, and adrenaline can affect males and females alike. However, women are more prone to imbalances in estrogen and progesterone levels, whereas imbalances in testosterone levels are more common among men.
What causes hormonal imbalances?
It is normal for anyone to experience hormonal imbalances or fluctuations at various points in their life. However, you can also experience hormonal imbalances when your endocrine glands are not functioning properly.
There are several medical conditions that may impact certain endocrine glands and cause hormonal imbalance. Some of these conditions include diabetes, pituitary tumors, an underactive or overactive thyroid, Addison’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome, hereditary pancreatitis, anorexia nervosa, and tumors, cysts and cancers involving the endocrine glands.
Hormonal imbalances can also be triggered by certain lifestyle habits and treatments, such as extreme or chronic stress, abuse of anabolic steroid medications, poor diet and nutrition, hormonal replacement therapy, birth control medication, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Exposure to toxins, pollutants, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (like herbicides and pesticides) could also lead to hormonal imbalances.
What are the common symptoms of hormonal imbalances?
The symptoms depend on which glands and hormones are affected by the hormonal imbalance. Some of the common symptoms associated with hormonal imbalances include difficulty sleeping, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, changes in appetite, excessive sweating, unexplained and long-term fatigue, anxiety and irritability, reduced sex drive, blurred vision, and more or less frequent urination and defecation.
Hormonal imbalances in men
Men may normally experience periods of hormonal imbalance, which can be caused by the processes surrouding puberty and aging. Certain medical conditions exclusive to males, namely prostate cancer and hypogonadism, can cause hormonal imbalances, too. Hormonal imbalances in men may include symptoms such as erectile dysfunction, reduced sex drive, overdeveloped breast tissue, reduced muscle mass, reduced body hair growth and osteoporosis.
Hormonal imbalances in women
Women are prone to hormonal imbalances during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breast-feeding, perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause. Hormonal imbalances in women can also be caused by medical conditions, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), and ovarian cancer. Some of the symptoms of hormonal imbalance in women include heavy, painful, or irregular menstrual periods, deepening of the voice, clitoral enlargement, vaginal dryness, indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea.
Everyone can experience hormonal imbalances during various points in their life. Despite being relatively normal, it could be a wise choice to consult with your doctor or visit an endocrine medicine center when you experience symptoms of hormonal imbalance.