A hormonal imbalance happens when you have too much or too little of one or more hormones — your body’s chemical messengers. It’s a broad term that can represent many different hormone-related conditions.
Hormones are chemicals that coordinate different functions in your body by carrying messages through your blood to your organs, skin, muscles and other tissues. These signals tell your body what to do and when to do it. Hormones are essential for life and your health.
Scientists have identified over 50 hormones in the human body so far.
Hormones and most of the tissues (mainly glands) that create and release them make up your endocrine system. Hormones control many different bodily processes, including:
A hormonal imbalance happens when you have too much or too little of one or more hormones. It’s a broad term that can represent many different hormone-related conditions.
Hormones are powerful signals. For many hormones, having even slightly too much or too little of them can cause major changes to your body and lead to certain conditions that require treatment.
Some hormonal imbalances can be temporary while others are chronic (long-term). In addition, some hormonal imbalances require treatment so you can stay physically healthy, while others may not impact your health but can negatively affect your quality of life.
Dozens of medical conditions are caused by hormone issues. For most hormones, having too much or too little of them causes symptoms and issues with your health. While many of these imbalances require treatment, some can be temporary and may go away on their own. Some of the most common hormone-related conditions include:
Because your body makes over 50 different hormones — all of which contribute to important bodily functions — you could experience several different symptoms depending on which hormonal imbalance you have.
It’s important to know that many of the following symptoms could be caused by other conditions, not just from a hormonal imbalance. If you ever notice a change in your day-to-day health and are experiencing new, persistent symptoms, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider — no matter what you think the cause might be.
Common hormonal imbalances include those that affect your metabolism. Your metabolism consists of the chemical reactions in your body's cells that change the food you eat into energy. Many different hormones and processes are involved in metabolism.
Symptoms of hormonal imbalances that affect your metabolism include:
People assigned female at birth (AFAB) can have imbalances of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, which the ovaries produce. They can also have excess testosterone and androgens. An imbalance in sex hormones can cause the following symptoms in people AFAB:
People assigned male at birth (AMAB) can have an imbalance of testosterone, which the testes produce, and other sex hormones, which can cause the following symptoms:
Yes, certain hormone imbalances can cause weight gain, including:
Several other factors contribute to weight gain. If you’re experiencing unexpected weight gain or are concerned about your weight, talk to your healthcare provider.
Yes, certain hormonal imbalances can cause anxiety, including:
Several other conditions and factors can cause anxiety. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing anxiety.
Throughout your life — and even throughout the day — your hormone levels naturally rise and fall.
Certain periods of life cause more dramatic changes and fluctuations in hormones, including:
However, there are several other reasons why your hormone levels may be irregular at unexpected times. Some of the most common causes of fluctuating or imbalanced hormone levels include:
These hormonal imbalances are more likely to be temporary or fixable with a change in medication or properly managing stress.
Chronic hormone-related conditions can have several different possible causes. In general, the main conditions or situations that cause medically significant hormone imbalances include:
Any kind of growth on a gland or organ that produces hormones, such as a tumor, adenoma or nodule, could affect its ability to do so.
Rare endocrine tumors form in glands or in cells that produce hormones and can cause hormone imbalances. Some of the rare endocrine tumors include:
An adenoma is a benign (noncancerous) tumor. Many adenomas are nonfunctioning, meaning they don’t produce hormones. But some can produce excess hormones. These are called functioning adenomas. Adenomas that affect your endocrine system and cause hormone imbalances include:
Growths other than tumors and adenomas on endocrine glands can cause hormone imbalances. For example, thyroid nodules, an unusual growth (lump) of cells in your thyroid gland, can cause hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
Any kind of damage or injury to an endocrine gland can cause hormone imbalances — usually a lack (deficiency) of hormones. Damage could result from the following conditions or situations:
An autoimmune disease happens when your immune system accidentally attacks a part of your body instead of protecting it. It's unclear why your immune system does this. If your immune system attacks a gland or organ that produces hormones, it causes a hormonal imbalance. Autoimmune endocrine conditions include:
Healthcare providers typically order blood tests to check hormone levels since your endocrine glands release hormones directly into your bloodstream.
Certain hormone levels vary drastically throughout the day, so providers may order other tests to measure your levels, such as a glucose tolerance test or insulin tolerance test.
Your provider will also ask you about your medical history and symptoms and perform a physical exam.
Treatment for a hormonal imbalance will depend on what’s causing it.
If you have lower-than-normal hormone levels, the main treatment is hormone replacement therapy. Depending on which hormone is deficient, you may take oral medication (pills) or injection medication.
For example, if you have low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism), your provider can prescribe synthetic thyroid hormone pills. If you have growth hormone deficiency, you’ll likely have to take injections (shots) of synthetic growth hormone.
If you have higher-than-normal hormone levels, there are many treatment options depending on the cause. Options include medication, surgery, radiation therapy or a combination of any of these.
For example, if you have a prolactinoma, a benign (noncancerous) tumor that causes excess prolactin (a hormone), your provider may prescribe a medication to shrink the tumor or you may need surgery to remove it.
Many health conditions that involve hormonal imbalances, such as diabetes and thyroid disease, require medical treatment.
Many nutritional supplements in stores claim to treat different hormonal imbalances, but few of them have been scientifically proven to have a beneficial effect. It’s important to always talk to your healthcare provider first about taking supplements.
Aside from medical treatment, your provider may recommend certain lifestyle changes to help manage a hormonal imbalance, such as managing your stress levels and getting routine exercise.
Primary healthcare providers can diagnose and help you manage many hormonal imbalances, but you may benefit from seeing an endocrinologist.
An endocrinologist is a healthcare provider who specializes in endocrinology, a field of medicine that studies conditions related to your hormones. They can diagnose endocrine (hormone) conditions, develop treatment and management plans and prescribe medication.
While many hormonal imbalances aren’t preventable, there are certain things you can do to optimize your overall health, which could help keep your hormones balanced, including:
If you’re experiencing new, persistent symptoms, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider. They can order tests to help determine the cause of your symptoms.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hormones are complex and powerful chemicals. If one or more of them goes out of whack, it can cause certain symptoms that make you feel like you’re not in control of your body. If you have new and persistent symptoms, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider. They can order some tests to see if a hormonal imbalance or another condition is the cause. The sooner you reach out for help and treatment, the sooner you’ll be able to feel like yourself again.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/04/2022.
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