Hormonal imbalances can affect women who are of reproductive age. More often than not, these imbalances are spurred by fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone levels, the hormones responsible for sexual and reproductive development in women. They play such an important role in a women’s well-being, that even minor dips and spikes can have significant effects on the body.
Some common symptoms of hormonal imbalance include hair loss, weight gain and irregular periods. The flipside is that because they are so common, most women fail to recognise that these symptoms could be a result of more than just the periodic stress that is encountered from time to time because of work or life. As a result, many women end up tolerating these discomforts, brushing them off instead of seeking solutions from a gynaecologist.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the symptoms that are likely to result from hormonal imbalance.
Hormones are responsible for regulating metabolism as well as determining how energy is used by the body. When the body produces insufficient amounts of the thyroid hormone, hypothyroidism occurs, leading to considerable weight gain.
Moreover, women who have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) exhibit a lack of sensitivity to the hormone insulin. Since this hormone is tied to the regulation of blood sugar, these women are likely to experience weight gain.
A dip in oestrogen levels can also make you feel hungrier than usual, causing you to eat more and gain weight.
For some women, their monthly menstruation cycle functions like clockwork. Others, however, aren’t so lucky. While a delayed or missed period may occasionally happen, it should not happen frequently, especially not with gaps of several months between periods.
Women in their 40s and 50s who are about to enter menopause are likely to experience irregular periods, and this can be part of the normal process. However, see a doctor if you are worried. For younger women, this may be a sign of PCOS and warrants a visit to the gynaecologist for further assessment.
An increase in oestrogen levels can lead to the development of fibroids in the uterus. These fibroids are often the reason behind a heavy flow of blood during menstruation.
Problems falling asleep
If it’s been a while since you had a restful sleep, it could be due to hormonal imbalances. In most cases, decreased levels of the hormone progesterone which is produced by the ovaries could be a cause of sleeplessness.
Additionally, low levels of oestrogen can result in profuse sweating and night sweats that get in the way of a good night’s rest.
You may get the odd pimple now and then, especially around the time of your period. But if you have stubborn, chronic acne, it could be caused by hormonal imbalances. Overproduction of the hormone androgen can send your skin’s oil glands into overdrive. That in turn clogs pores, which are the precursor to acne flare-ups.
Changing levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone can also affect digestion. These fluctuations tend to occur during your monthly periods, which is why some women complain of diarrhoea and bloating around that time.
If your energy levels are consistently low, increased levels of progesterone or decreased thyroid levels could be making you feel groggy.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is when small cysts carrying immature eggs develop inside the ovaries.
Those affected by PCOS are likely to generate higher levels of androgen, which is the male hormone that regulates the function of many organs on the body, such as the kidneys and liver. PCOS is recognised as a common hormonal disorder that results in a host of other problems such as:
- Excessive body hair
- Hair fall
- Weight fluctuation
- Skin problems
Symptoms differ from woman to woman, and if left undiagnosed and untreated, PCOS can lead to heart ailments and diabetes.
Aside from low energy levels, hormonal imbalances can also affect the way you feel. Emotions often encountered include irritability and sadness. Changes in oestrogen levels can adversely affect the release of chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, which prevents you from feeling happy.
While occasional dryness is considered normal, oestrogen levels on the lower end of the spectrum may be a cause if this symptom is often experienced. This kind of hormonal imbalance can reduce moisture in the area, making you feel quite uncomfortable.
Discharge from the breasts
If you are neither breastfeeding nor pregnant, but notice a milky discharge being released from your nipples, it may be caused by abnormal levels of the hormone prolactin. This could denote diseases tied to glands within your body, namely the thyroid and pituitary glands.
Decreased levels of oestrogen and progesterone can make hair thinner and less lustrous. These dips also prompt an increase in androgen levels that shrink follicles and result in hair fall, compounding the problem.
Cold hands and feet
Your inability to be in an air-conditioned room without a jacket might be a sign of hypothyroidism, especially if others around you seem to be doing just fine. Low levels of the thyroid hormone can bring about a number of symptoms, cold hands and feet being one of the more common ones.
Women face a multitude of problems that are rooted in hormonal imbalances. As they are quite common and affect the majority of women, the individual symptoms are often brushed aside as minor inconveniences that can be tolerated. As they do not always occur together or may be mild, seeking medical help is usually delayed or not even considered until more severe symptoms are experienced. However, hormone imbalances can be easily treated and women need not suffer through the discomfort or inconveniences. Speak with your family doctor or a gynaecologist should you notice or experience any of the above mentioned signs and symptoms.
Article reviewed by Dr Lisa Chin, obstetrician & gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital
Retrieved 3 July 2021 from https://www.northwell.edu/obstetrics-and-gynecology/fertility/expert-insights/11-unexpected-signs-of-hormonal-imbalance
Retrieved 3 July 2021 from https://www.gleneagles.com.sg/facilities-services/centre-excellence/women-health-gynaecology/integrated-health/hormones-endocrinology