03 Apr Symptoms of Hormone Imbalances in Women
Most women experience hormone imbalances at some point during their lifetime. For a few people these imbalances begin at menarche (first menstruation) and continue most of their lifetime. For others, the imbalances do not occur until peri-menopause which is the time of life between normal, on-schedule menstruation until 1 year after the last menstrual cycle. And lastly the lucky ones do not experience symptoms of imbalance at all.
There are many symptoms hormonal imbalances can cause. Beginning with young women, dysmenorrhea (bad menstrual cramping) can be debilitating with many missed days of school or work. Most commonly this is caused by a deficiency of progesterone being produced by the ovaries. This condition, if severe enough to warrant treatment, can be alleviated by simply replacing the missing bio-identical progesterone either as capsule or creams. Some women experience dysmenorrhea throughout their reproductive years and could require more extensive treatment.
During peri-menopause more symptoms can occur including breast tenderness, fibrocystic breasts, weight gain, infrequent hot flashes and night sweats, water retention, mood swings/PMS, low thyroid function due to increased thyroid binding globulin, irregular menstrual cycles, difficulty sleeping, and low libido. These symptoms come under the heading of “Estrogen Dominance” which is again caused by low progesterone levels. Estrogen Dominance occurs after the woman has ceased ovulation, but still maintains enough estrogen to keep the cycle at least partially intact. Progesterone is primarily produced by the ovaries after the time of ovulation, so once ovulation stops, so does the production of progesterone. Once again, the most effective step for this condition is to replace the progesterone, keeping in mind that during peri-menopause there can be sporadic ovulation, so some months could be worse than others.
Once a woman reaches full menopause, her estrogens and progesterone are all now low, and she could have the full range of low hormone symptoms. In addition to the above symptoms, a higher percentage of women experience the vasomotor symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats and they tend to be stronger, at least in the early stages of menopause. Irritability and mood swings may continue or lessen from those experienced during peri-menopause. Physical changes in the body include: weight gain, arthritis symptoms (made worse by lower hormone levels), thinning skin, more wrinkles, vaginal dryness and atrophy, increased risk of heart disease, and osteoporosis. By replacing the now-missing hormones, with attention to achieving the correct balance between them, we can resolve these symptoms and have a better quality of life.
From the information above, we see that at any stage of life an unbalanced hormone profile can lead to symptoms ranging from annoying to serious, but we have the ability to achieve the correct balance of hormones.