As you settle further into adulthood, it isn’t unusual to begin feeling or looking a little different. This is a natural part of aging for men’s and women’s health alike, and it can usually be managed. When low levels of hormones negatively impact the way you look and feel, you may choose to seek guidance from a healthcare provider so you can supplement some of the hormones you’re missing and get back to hormonal balance.
Hormone production naturally decreases with age in both men and women. If you believe you’re experiencing the symptoms of low estrogen or low testosterone, here’s what you need to know about checking your hormones and speaking to a healthcare professional about your concerns.
What Is a Hormone Imbalance?
A hormone imbalance occurs when the body isn’t producing sufficient amounts of one or more hormones necessary for the body to function properly. Women commonly experience low estrogen levels and men commonly experience low testosterone levels with age.
Both men and women can experience low thyroid-stimulating hormone levels (TSH). Although the condition is more common in women, men are more likely to experience significant symptoms relating to hyperthyroidism (aka underactive thyroid).
Some conditions may cause or result in hormone imbalance in individuals regardless of age, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which involves increased androgen levels in women (the male sex hormone) that can cause effects like irregular periods, infertility, and hair growth. Endocrine diseases, especially ones that affect the adrenal glands like Addison’s Disease, can also result in hormonal disruptions that have nothing to do with age.
Hormone imbalances can disrupt the body’s homeostasis. Every human body needs the right balance of hormones like testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and thyroid hormones to function. When you’re fully grown, the body uses these hormones to maintain its health. Hormones also affect the way you look and the way your body produces energy.
What Are the Symptoms of Low Hormone Levels?
The symptoms of low hormone levels can vary between men and women. They can also occur at different times in the lives of men and women. Women are most likely to notice low hormone symptoms around perimenopause or menopause (which starts 12 months after a woman’s last menstrual cycle). Men can begin to notice them at any time, usually after age 30.
Many of the symptoms men and women experience are similar.
- Low energy levels
- Anxiety, nervousness, and irritation
- Unwanted weight gain
- Lack of mental focus
- Low sex drive
- Difficulty with sexual performance
- Dry skin
- Difficulty sleeping
4 Ways To Check Hormone Leve;s
1. How To Check Hormone Levels with a Blood Test
The easiest and most straightforward method for checking hormone levels is blood testing. Almost all key hormones can be detected in the blood. A blood sample can show your doctor the levels of important hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and thyroid hormone. In some cases, your doctor may want to obtain a second set of test results to confirm findings.
2. How To Check Hormone Levels with a Pelvic Exam
Pelvic exams don’t directly check hormone levels, but they do give your doctor valuable insight into your body’s ability to produce sufficient hormones. Doctors will check the testicles for abnormalities in size or any internal lumps or growths that may be cause for concern.
Female hormone testing usually involves a pap smear and a wellness check to assess reproductive health issues that may contribute to or be caused by inadequate hormone production.
Lumps may require a punch biopsy or a needle biopsy. Your doctor will send a sample to a lab for analysis to determine the nature of these lumps, such as to confirm they are not tumors. It’s important for your doctor to ascertain that these lumps don’t present a serious threat to your overall health.
3. How To Check Hormone Levels with Medical Imaging
The organs that produce hormones cannot be observed from the outside of your body. In some cases, ultrasound images or CT scan images can reveal the health of your uterus, ovaries, testicles, pituitary gland, or thyroid gland.
Medical imaging tests are usually the last step in a diagnosis. Your doctor will only request them if your blood tests indicate that there may be cause for concern, or if any abnormal lumps are detected during a medical examination.
4. How To Check Hormone Levels at Home
The FDA is very reluctant to grant approval to home hormone level testing kits. Before purchasing any at-home medical testing kit, you should check to verify FDA approval. If the kit isn’t approved, it’s likely not useful.
Many at-home test kits utilize saliva samples and saliva tests, as well as urine tests, which are both not as accurate when compared to the results of traditional medical testing methods like bloodwork. This is especially true when testing for hormones like follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which increases during menopause, and cortisol levels, which are higher during times of stress.
Even if you do use an at-home kit, your doctor usually will not accept the kit’s findings as fact. You’ll generally still need to undergo at least one additional test done in one of the previous standard methods.
Hormone level testing kits can be wrong in either direction. They may allude to a problem that doesn’t exist, or miss a significant concern. It’s best to avoid using them and speak directly with your doctor if you have concerns about hormone levels.
One of the best things you can do at home is keep a journal of your symptoms. Your detailed documentation of what you’re experiencing and when you experience it can help to point your doctor in the right direction. The more information your doctor has, the better they will be able to compose a treatment plan that meets your unique needs.
How Is Hormone Imbalance Treated?
If the symptoms of hormone imbalance are very mild, some people choose to approach the issue holistically. If the symptoms become disruptive or uncomfortable, people may choose to pursue treatment. (It’s important to seek and follow the guidance of a healthcare provider in either case.)
Treatment for hormone imbalance is multifaceted. Hormone therapy can significantly resolve symptoms, but its benefits only reach their fullest potential when combined with a healthy lifestyle.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy is a treatment program that supplies your body with adequate amounts of the hormone your body can’t produce in sufficient amounts. There are various methods of delivery for hormone replacement therapy, but many people find that injecting hormones into a muscle provides substantial results with very little hassle.
Your doctor will work with you to establish a hormone replacement therapy plan and give you tailored instructions regarding the amount of hormones you’re supposed to use and the frequency at which you’re supposed to use your hormones.
Most people usually experience the full wealth of benefits within 16 weeks of consistent use. Oftentimes, people will notice a difference in the way they feel in as little as 2 weeks.
Many people who have been living with hormone imbalance for a significant period of time have noticed unwanted changes to their body. Changes like weight gain, decreased muscle tone, and dry skin won’t be ameliorated by hormone replacement therapy. Hormone replacement therapy may keep these changes from worsening, but they won’t reverse the changes you’ve already endured.
Making mindful meal choices, taking good care of your skin, and regularly engaging in physical activity are all necessary for your overall health. Over time, making better choices can help to reduce unwanted body weight, build muscle, and improve the appearance of your skin. If you continue hormone therapy in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, it should be easier to maintain the appearance you desire.
How To Get Started With Hormone Therapy
Elite HRT’s experienced team of telemedicine hormone replacement therapy doctors make it as easy as possible to begin hormone replacement therapy and reclaim your vitality. We’ll work to arrange necessary tests in your area, review your medical history, consult with you about your concerns, and prescribe a tailored treatment program you can administer at home.
Many people looking to make healthy lifestyle changes often benefit from nutraceutical injections, like vitamin B shots to support energy levels and metabolism. These injections can be used in conjunction with hormone replacement therapy to help you reach your wellness goals.
All you need to do to get started is contact our team.
The presence of hypothyroid symptoms is more reliable in diagnosing hypothyroidism in men than in women | American Thyroid Association
Low Testosterone (Low T): Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic