Many signs of hormone imbalance get mistaken for other conditions, which explains why numerous men and women grapple with uncomfortable symptoms for lengthy periods of time. At Renew Health in Tempe and Goodyear, AZ, we easily recognize these symptoms for what they are and understand hormone therapy can change your life. Whatever your age, your hormone fluctuations can be treated, even if it seems like everything else has already been tried to no avail.
What Are the Signs You Need Hormone Therapy?
Hormones, those chemical messengers we’ve all heard about, perform more functions within the body than you think. For starters, they tell every tissue and organ what work needs to be performed, when to do it, and for how long. They are vital to your health, regulating such processes as:
- Growth and development
- Metabolism (how your body obtains the energy it needs from food)
- Sexual functions
The above are just a tiny snapshot of the many tasks hormones perform. They also directly affect weight in both males and females. We’ll start with the former, who rely on testosterone to burn fat and build muscle. This is why men in their teens and early adult years often have lean bodies; but as men age, they typically become less active and see a decrease in their metabolism rates.
Testosterone levels also naturally drop. Physiologically, this creates a vicious cycle for men in which low testosterone causes weight gain, and weight gain is a factor in low testosterone. Abdominal fat becomes especially problematic because it doesn’t just sit in place. It is metabolically active and converts testosterone into estrogen. As hormones become further imbalanced, men see increased body fat and low energy levels.
The Female Factor
For women, the key to managing weight – in addition to eating healthful foods and engaging in frequent physical activity – is balancing estrogen. When levels are too low or too high, women are prone to weight gain. Low levels cause the body to stubbornly hold fat as it starts looking elsewhere for estrogen. Fat cells serve as one such source, so the body converts all extra energy sources into fat, particularly around the waist.
High levels can irritate insulin-producing cells so that you eventually become resistant. In turn, blood sugar levels increase and give way to weight gain. Cortisol is another hormone that, when left unchecked, can add weight to the body. And progesterone, which drops during times of stress and menopause, is similarly associated with weight gain and depression.
It’s no secret that hair thins in both men and women with age. The prime culprit in the former is dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a male steroid hormone that functions in a variety of ways within the body. The body produces DHT as a byproduct of testosterone. Once it binds to hair follicle receptors in the scalp, it causes them to shrink, weaken, and eventually die.
In women, estrogen influences the amount of time hair spends in the growing phase. A decline of this crucial hormone means a variety of tissues, including hair, lose their protective effects and grow more slowly. This commonly occurs during menopause, when hormones are already in a state of fluctuation. Testosterone – yes, women also have this male-based hormone – can rise during this time and progressively weaken hair follicles until they fail to thrive.
Insomnia and Fatigue
In men, it’s often believed that low testosterone causes insomnia, but just the opposite is true: poor sleep causes testosterone levels to fall. Insomnia can be caused by any number of factors, but as it persists, cortisol levels naturally rise. Known as the stress hormone, this chemical increases with prolonged insomnia because of the stress caused to the body. This pattern can cause testosterone to drop and a gradual drop in overall life quality.
Women are at twice the risk for insomnia as men are. You can blame this on estrogen, which helps move magnesium into body tissues to catalyze sleep. When this hormone drops, such as in perimenopause and menopause, it is harder to fall and stay asleep throughout the night. On top of this, women often contend with hot flashes at night that make sleep disturbances that much more likely.
The Role of Testosterone
Waning testosterone levels can also be problematic for women, as these are associated with snoring and sleep apnea. These effects, combined with ongoing fatigue, can persist over the course of many years.
Mood Swings, Depression, and Anxiety
When we think of testosterone, we often imagine it as the fuel for male sexual desire. But its role is much more complicated, affecting your state of mind, how your brain works, mood, and stress levels. Low testosterone is, in fact, known to be a major source of mental health issues in men.
To be specific, it’s often a cause of mood swings and depression, as confirmed by a study of more than 600 Dutch men. Those participants with low testosterone levels also commonly showed symptoms of depression. And knowing you have low testosterone can be emotionally distressing, creating a downward spiral that can lead to:
- Low energy
- Disinterest in exercising
- Weight gain
- Feelings of inadequacy
It’s a well-known fact that women suffer from mood swings “at that time of the month.” And while jokes about this often elicit snickers, women with fluctuating hormones can struggle mightily. Estrogen is the chief cause of mood swings that include anxiety, irritability, and depression. These are common during menstruation, but it is during the transition to menopause that women are 14 times more likely than normal to experience depression.
The exact link between estrogen and mood is not completely understood, but this hormone seemingly impacts dopamine and serotonin. When estrogen levels are low, these key chemicals also drop and can cause what’s known as perimenopausal depression. Its symptoms are slightly different from other types of depression, marked by:
- Low self-esteem
- Memory difficulties
- Poor concentration
You probably knew we would get to this topic before long, as it’s one of the most prominent signs of hormone imbalance in both men and women. Men experience erectile dysfunction when testosterone drops; another symptom that’s not talked about as freely is a general loss of sexual desire. Just as women experience low libido when hormones fluctuate, men do as well. For many males, this is their first clue that hormone therapy may be in order.
Waning estrogen levels likewise cause vaginal dryness that can make intercourse uncomfortable and/or painful. This in and of itself can diminish desire, but a hormonal imbalance also contributes to low libido. Menopause can be an especially frustrating time for this reason, as women are forced to deal with a multitude of symptoms, on top of which is often relationship stress because they no longer seek or enjoy intimacy.
Male Specific Symptoms
Although the exact underlying connection between testosterone and cognition are not well understood, a clear pattern has been established. When testosterone drops, older men often show a decline in cognitive abilities. This includes the inability to focus and memory loss. To compound matters, these symptoms can be accompanied by aggression (not to be confused with dementia, which is a separate disease).
Men also frequently experience a loss of muscle mass as testosterone drops. The explanation here is much more straightforward than that of cognitive declines: testosterone is necessary for healthy muscle growth and maintenance. Waning levels can reduce the mass of these tissues and similarly diminish physical strength. And in conjunction with these symptoms, men frequently lose body hair.
Here’s another topic that doesn’t get the attention it deserves: male breast enlargement. This symptom is a strong indicator or hormonal imbalance, suggesting the ratio of testosterone to estrogen is out of balance. In other words, low levels of testosterone, compared to higher-than-normal levels of estrogen, can cause breast tissues to grow.
This is not a physically harmful condition, but it can be emotionally distressing. Many men try to cover up the condition with over-sized shirts and avoid activities like sitting by the pool or engaging in sports. But a much easier treatment, hormone therapy, can often correct this concern.
Symptoms Exhibited by Females
Women also show gender-specific symptoms when hormones are imbalanced, chief of which are irregular periods (before menopause). This symptom can be caused by both excessively high and low levels of estrogen. High levels can also lead to heavy bleeding, while low levels can yield little or no bleeding. Keep in mind estrogen is one of the main drivers in the menstrual cycle. This is why when levels are low, women may experience fertility issues.
Headaches also commonly occur with low estrogen levels. While one-third of the U.S. population suffers headaches, women are more susceptible than men. Symptoms can include:
- Duration of four to 72 hours
- Sensitivity to smell, sound, and light
- Pain on one side of the head
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Spots or lines in vision (rare)
Women often notice changes to their skin when estrogen drops; namely, body skin develops more wrinkles and becomes dry. This can even cause itching that, if scratched, leads to more irritation. Estrogen helps stimulate oil glands to keep skin hydrated. After menopause, as estrogen levels drop, oil glands shrink and skin becomes more vulnerable to dehydration.
These symptoms can also target the face, leading to flakes and dry skin patches that sit on the surface and clog pores. You might have guessed where we’re going with this, and that is acne breakouts. These are more common in perimenopause than menopause when estrogen levels fall and androgens rise.
And Breakouts, Too
Androgens are steroid hormones that regulate male characteristics, including higher sebum production (men have naturally oilier skin than women). Women have them, too, but they’re kept in balance thanks to estrogen. A decline of the latter, however, makes it easy for a number of skin conditions to arise so that a woman even in her late 40s or early 50s may still experience pimples.
Issues with Temperature Regulation
Last but not least are issues controlling body temperature. To simplify this as it relates to hormone levels, it’s important to know estrogen regulates that part of the brain responsible for temperature. Low levels can cause an uncomfortable increase in temperature, giving way to those dreaded night sweats and hot flashes.
Finally Eliminate Your Symptoms
You don’t have to just “live with” symptoms that are believed to be part of the normal aging process. Instead, you can actively manage your health and opt for hormone therapy. Safe, targeted, and developed for your specific needs, this treatment can restore balance and help you once again enjoy life’s little pleasures. Schedule your consultation today by calling Renew Health in Tempe and Goodyear, AZ.