One of the reasons why physicians and scientists often refer to the human body as an amazingly complex system is because of the endocrine system. To better understand this collective rationale, it helps to know what this system is and its role in the human body. Essentially, the endocrine system is a network of hormone-secreting glands that enable the body to perform numerous critical, life-sustaining functions.
These glands include the adrenal, hypothalamus, pineal, pancreas, parathyroid, pituitary, and thyroid. The testes in men and ovaries in women are also glands that comprise the endocrine system. Each of the glands that make up the endocrine system release hormones that make their way into the bloodstream. From there, they travel to tissue and various cells in the body, and after reaching these locations, they work to contribute to growth and development, respiration, and metabolism. They also play a critical role in sexual reproduction, sensory perception, and movement. That said, developing a hormonal imbalance can disrupt many of these vital bodily functions.
How Hormonal Imbalances Can Take a Toll on Your Health
Because of the overarching role hormones play in the human body, an imbalance of any kind can quickly send things spiraling out of control. For example, a thyroid gland that secretes too little thyroxine (T4) or triiodothyronine (T3) hormones can lead to weight gain. It can also trigger muscle weakness, fatigue, and constipation. Similarly, testes in men and ovaries in women that secrete too little testosterone or too little estrogen can lower libido and disrupt reproductive development in both genders. Of course, these are only a few examples of what happens when hormonal imbalances strike. There are many others; to determine whether or not a hormonal imbalance is impacting your health, you will have to be seen by an endocrinologist who can perform a hormone test.
When Should You Get a Hormone Test?
If you believe you have a hormonal imbalance, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician (PCP) first. These physicians will either rule out an imbalance as the cause of your health problem or refer you to an endocrinologist who can request hormone testing. Most tests require patients to provide a blood sample, but some might require urine or saliva samples. In rare cases, an endocrinologist might even order ultrasounds, biopsies, MRIs, and other more advanced tests. The results of these tests and samples provide endocrinologists with valuable insights relative to some of the following hormone levels in a patient’s blood:
- Human growth hormones (HGH)
- Thyroxine and triiodothyronine
Hormone Testing for Women
Some of the symptoms that should prompt women to speak with an endocrinologist about possibly undergoing hormone testing include
- Chronic acne
- Frequent headaches
- Hair loss
- Severe hyperpigmentation
- Night sweats
- Painful intercourse
- Skin tags
- Excessive facial or body hair
- Unusually heavy or irregular periods
- Vaginal atrophy
- Vaginal dryness
While these symptoms generally correlate with other health problems, they can sometimes signal an estrogen or progesterone imbalance.
Hormone Testing for men
Like women, several symptoms should also prompt men to speak with an endocrinologist about possibly undergoing hormone testing. Some of these symptoms include the following:
- A decline in muscle mass
- Decrease in beard growth
- Decrease in body hair
- Difficulty concentrating
- Erectile dysfunction
- Gynecomastia or breast tenderness
- Low bone density
- Low libido
As we get up there in age, it becomes more and more important to look after our health. And this includes scheduling regular physical exams and advising our physician of sudden changes in our health, especially the onset of any of the ones detailed in this article. While not all health problems point to a hormonal imbalance, many do. So if you suspect that you might have a hormonal imbalance or if it has been a while since your last physical exam, consider this article as a clarion call to schedule an appointment with a physician today at 205-352-9141.