Many women realize that they've entered the menopausal transition based on symptoms, like hot flashes, irregular periods, or loss of libido, without any medical tests. Some, however, may wish to measure hormonal imbalance behind their symptoms to tailor their treatment more precisely for optimal relief.
Keep reading to discover how to measure hormonal imbalance, including what is hormonal imbalance, what hormone tests can be used, and how to interpret the results.
About Hormonal Imbalance
Hormonal imbalance happens when production of hormones is insufficient or excessive, triggering a wide variety of physical and psychological symptoms.
Sometimes hormonal imbalance is part of a natural life phase, like menopause or pregnancy, while other times it can be indicative of an underlying health condition, such as thyroid disease.
There are more than 200 hormones and hormone-like substances in the human body.1 For the purposes of this article, we will be discussing tests for an imbalance of reproductive hormones (follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH; estrogen; progesterone; and testosterone), which is characteristic of the menopausal transition.
What Tests Measure Hormonal Imbalance?
There are a number of hormone tests that can diagnose an imbalance. The doctor will most commonly order appropriate tests based on reported symptoms, physical exam, a woman's age, and medical history.
Hormone tests will also be used to monitor a woman's health and treatment efficacy for menopause symptoms.
Common Hormone Tests
Most common tests to measure hormonal imbalance include the following:
- Saliva test is often a part of at-home test kits; it can indicate an imbalance, but not exact hormone levels.
- Urine test generally consists of collecting urine for 24 hours to measure hormone levels in that time window.
- Blood test will offer exact hormone levels; it is the most common type of hormone test.
Additional Hormone Tests
Based on abnormal blood hormone tests, a doctor might also order imaging (ultrasound, X-ray, or MRI) to determine structural abnormalities in the endocrine glands - like the pituitary gland, ovaries, or thyroid - or a biopsy to analyze a tissue sample from the problematic gland.
How to Interpret Results of Hormone Tests?
For middle-aged women, a combination of reported symptoms and measured hormone levels are enough to confirm that they, indeed, entered the transition.
It is important to bear in mind that laboratories might have their own ranges of hormone levels. Also, because hormones fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, it is likely that a doctor will order more than one test before making a diagnosis.
Normal hormone levels for estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone throughout adulthood and menstrual phases are as follows:2,3,4,5
- FSH: 1.1 - 17.2 IU/mL
- Estrogen: 30 - 400 pg/mL
- Progesterone: 0.1 - 25 ng/mL
- Testosterone: 15 - 70 ng/dL
Confirming hormonal imbalance is only the first step towards finding long-lasting relief, the second one being choosing adequate treatment. For middle-aged women, this can consist of optimizing their lifestyle habits, such as eating a nutritious, hormone-balancing diet; finding the right exercise routine; and partaking in stress-relief techniques of meditation or deep breathing techniques. The best outcomes are achieved when herbal supplements complement a healthy lifestyle. These come in two types: phytoestrogenic or hormone-regulating supplements, both helping achieve hormonal equilibrium in a different way. Click on the following link to explore these effective hormonal imbalance treatments further and make a step towards a happy and healthy life!
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- University of Rochester Medical Center. (n.d.). Follicle-Stimulating Hormone. Retrieved December 9, 2019 from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=follicle_stimulating_hormone
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- University of Rochester Medical Center. (n.d.). Total Testosterone. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=testosterone_total