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SME Guide

Causes and symptoms of hormonal imbalance

Everyone will experience natural periods of hormonal imbalance or fluctuations at particular points in their lives. But 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.

Additional causes of hormonal imbalance

Other causes of hormonal imbalance may include:

  • chronic stress
  • poor diet and nutrition
  • having overweight
  • hormonal replacement or birth control medications
  • misuse of anabolic steroid medications
  • exposure to toxins, pollutants, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides

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

  • puberty
  • menstruation
  • pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding
  • perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause

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

Causes of hormonal imbalance in women include:

  • polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • hormone replacement or birth control medications
  • primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)
  • ovarian cancer

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

  • puberty
  • aging
  • stress

Men may develop different hormonal imbalances than women because they have different endocrine organs and cycles.

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

  • congenital problems or other underlying medical conditions
  • prostate cancer, which develops with the aid of androgens or male sex hormones
  • hypogonadism, which is the production of testosterone
  • testicular injury
  • radiation or chemotherapy
  • hormone disorders, such as a pituitary tumor
  • diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, HIV, and AIDS
  • genetic conditions, such as Klinefelter syndrome, hemochromatosis, or Kallmann syndrome


Symptoms of hormonal imbalance

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 women, the symptoms more frequently include:

  • mood swings
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • irregular menstrual cycle
  • infertility
  • pain in the abdomen or the back during menstruation
  • low sex drive
  • insomnia
  • unexplained weight gain or weight loss
  • brittle bones
  • hirsutism, or excessive hair growth
  • rashes on the skin


Symptoms in males

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

  • decrease in sex drive
  • erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • loss of muscle mass
  • thinning hair and reduced hair growth
  • tenderness in the area of the chest

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