Hormonal imbalances occur when there is too much or too little of a hormone in the blood. Common symptoms include weight changes, lower sex drive, and acne, but it depends on which hormone is out of balance.

Hormones are chemicals that glands produce in the endocrine system. They 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 essential for regulating most major bodily processes. This means a hormonal imbalance can affect many bodily functions. Hormones help to regulate:

  • metabolism
  • blood sugar
  • growth
  • blood pressure
  • reproductive cycles and sexual function
  • general growth and development
  • mood and stress levels

Imbalances in insulin, steroids, growth hormones, and adrenaline can affect males and females alike.

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

This article explains the symptoms of hormonal imbalance. It also lists and discusses common causes of it.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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The symptoms of a hormonal imbalance can vary according to which gland is affected and whether the person is male or female.

Symptoms in females

In females, the symptoms may include:

Symptoms in males

When a male has low testosterone levels, their symptoms will typically include:

Acne can occur due to the overproduction of oil in the skin’s sebaceous glands. This excess oil can clog pores and attract bacteria, further inflaming the skin.

The hormones testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone can affect the sebaceous glands in the skin. Some ways these hormones can influence acne include:

  • Testosterone helps to regulate sebum (oil) production. Excess amounts can potentially block pores, resulting in acne.
  • Increasing progesterone levels likely play a role in pregnancy-related acne, although healthcare professionals are not sure exactly how.
  • Females can experience postmenopausal acne, which may be due to changes in estrogen and progesterone levels.

In addition, females who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are more likely to experience severe and persistent acne. Healthcare professionals believe increased exposure to androgen hormones, such as testosterone, and resistance to insulin hormones may increase acne risks.

Learn more about hormonal acne.

Hormone imbalances can affect several processes in the body that lead to weight gain. Some examples include:

  • Thyroid hormones regulate the body’s metabolism or the rate at which it burns energy. Too few thyroid hormones can slow metabolism and result in weight gain.
  • Decreasing levels of estrogen can lead to weight gain in menopause.
  • Hormonal imbalances due to PCOS can result in weight gain.
  • Weight gain and childhood obesity are common symptoms of Cushings syndrome. This disorder causes the body to produce excess amounts of cortisol.

Ideally, treating the underlying condition can help reduce weight gain related to hormonal imbalance.

Learn more about estrogen and weight gain.

Pregnancy results in changing hormone levels to nourish a growing fetus. These include changing levels of the hormones progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. While the hormone levels may be different, they are not necessarily unbalanced during pregnancy.

However, some hormones that increase during pregnancy can affect how a person’s body uses insulin. This can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes during pregnancy.

Learn more about gestational diabetes.

Male pattern hair loss has links to reduced androgen hormones, such as testosterone. For this reason, healthcare professionals also call male pattern hair loss androgenetic alopecia. This condition causes hair loss in the front and crown of the head.

However, not all males experience androgenetic alopecia even though their hormone levels change as they age. Experts interpret this to mean that some males are genetically predisposed to hair loss.

Learn more about male pattern baldness.

Testing for hormonal imbalances depends largely on what condition a healthcare professional may believe is causing the imbalance. Some of the tests they may use include:

  • Blood testing: Healthcare professionals can test for certain hormones, such as estrogen, testosterone, or thyroid hormone.
  • Imaging: Imaging studies, such as ultrasound or MRI tests can help identify cysts or tumors that could cause the body to produce excess amounts of hormones.
  • Urine testing: Urine tests can measure levels of hormones related specifically to the menstrual cycle, such as cortisol.

Some at-home testing kit companies may offer products that allow a person to take a test at home. These could include urine or blood tests. A person should ensure the company is reputable and uses certified laboratories to evaluate testing samples.

Learn more about at-home hormone testing kits.

Most people will experience natural periods of hormonal imbalance or fluctuations at particular points in their lives. However, 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 can impact the endocrine glands. Certain lifestyle habits and environmental factors can also play a role in hormonal imbalances.

Learn more about endocrine disorders.

Medical conditions

Medical conditions that can affect hormone production may include but are not limited to:

Additional causes

Other causes of hormonal imbalance may include:

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

Females are likely to develop different hormonal imbalance disorders than males because they have different endocrine organs and cycles.

Causes of hormonal imbalance in females include:

Males also experience natural periods of hormonal imbalance during their lifetime, including:

  • puberty
  • aging
  • stress

Males may develop different hormonal imbalances than females because they have different endocrine organs and cycles.

Medical conditions causing hormonal imbalances in males include, but are not limited to:

Learn how to balance hormones.

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

Treatments for females

Treatment options for females with hormone imbalances include:

  • Hormonal 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. Birth control is available as a pill, ring, patch, shot, or 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 relieve 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): Clomid and Femara are medications that help stimulate ovulation in people with PCOS who are trying to become pregnant. Doctors may also give those with PCOS and infertility 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.

Treatments for males

Treatment options for males with hormonal imbalances include testosterone medications. Gels and patches containing testosterone can help reduce symptoms of hypogonadism and other conditions that cause low testosterone levels, such as delayed or stunted puberty.

Other treatments

Treatment options for hormonal imbalances include:

  • Metformin: Metformin is a medication for PCOS and diabetes. It can help lower both androgens and blood sugar levels.
  • Levothyroxine: Medications containing levothyroxine, such as Synthroid and Levothroid, can help improve symptoms of hypothyroidism.

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

However, clinical studies have not proven that any natural remedies can treat hormonal imbalances and their causes.

Supplements

Natural supplements commonly used to reduce symptoms of 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

Before taking any natural or herbal treatment, a person should check with their healthcare professional to ensure safety and avoid interaction side effects when taking other medications.

Lifestyle changes

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

  • maintaining a moderate 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 OTC 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 free from pesticides or ripening chemicals
  • avoiding microwaving foods and drinks in plastic containers

Most people will experience at least one or two periods of hormonal imbalance during their lifetime.

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

Medical conditions that affect or involve the endocrine system or glands can lead to a hormone imbalance. However, external factors, such as stress or hormone medications, can also be a cause.

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

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