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A hormone imbalance, more properly known as endocrinopathy, is a medical condition which affects the endocrine system, causing a disruption in the production of hormones. Levels of various hormones in the body can be elevated or reduced with a hormone imbalance, leading to a variety of health problems. A number of treatment approaches can be used to address endocrine disorders, depending on the nature and cause of the disorder in a given patient.
Hormones come in a variety of guises. These chemical messengers can be found all over the body performing a variety of tasks, from triggering ovulation to generating digestive enzymes. Hormones are secreted by the endocrine glands, a family of specialized glands which make up the endocrine system. When an imbalance occurs, a gland produces too much or too little of a hormone, or an endocrine disruptor in the body interferes with the function of a specific hormone.
A wide variety of things can lead to an endocrinopathy, including cancers, diseases, and environmental exposure to toxins. Many chemicals act as endocrine disruptors, causing imbalances in people who are exposed to these substances. The symptoms can also vary radically; although the stereotype is that hormone imbalances lead to erratic behavior, they do not necessarily have an impact on mood. The patient may feel tired or restless, and symptoms like hair loss, digestive difficulties, lack of appetite, easy bruising, loss of libido, and nausea may occur, depending on the hormone or hormones involved.
Doctors can diagnose a hormone imbalance by drawing blood from the patient and looking at the levels of hormones in the blood. For frame of reference, a chart of normal hormone levels can be compared to the bloodwork. Doctors may also request medical imaging studies or biopsies of specific endocrine glands to learn more about the imbalance. Combined with the symptoms manifested by the patient, this is usually enough to arrive at a diagnosis.
Treating an endocrinopathy usually involves treatment of the underlying cause of the problem, with the goal of healing the body so that it can correct the imbalance on its own. Replacement hormones may also be provided to make the patient more comfortable, especially if treatment will take a long time. Over the course of the treatment, periodic tests will be administered to monitor hormone levels and the progress of the treatment, looking for signs the hormone imbalance is resolving.