Diagnosis of hormone disorders
Regardless of the type of hormone disorder you have, your diagnosis will begin with an appointment with your doctor to discuss symptoms, medical history, and family history. Your doctor will likely also perform a pelvic exam.
Chances are, you will also have a blood test to check your hormone levels. The hormones checked will depend on what hormone disorder your doctor thinks may be the issue. Hormone levels that may be checked include:
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), prolactin (stimulates the production of breast milk), and estradiol (a type of estrogen) for primary ovarian insufficiency
- Thyroid hormone for thyroid problems
- Testosterone, testosterone-like hormones, and androgen for hirsutism
- Androgen, glucose tolerance, and fasting triglyceride and cholesterol levels for PCOS
Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, treatment can begin.
Your treatment and prevention options depend on the type of hormone disorder, the severity of the disorder, and your medical history, age, and reproductive goals. Treatment for hormone disorders may include:
- Lifestyle changes: Losing weight, increasing physical activity, and improving your diet can ease the symptoms of many hormone disorders.
- Fertility treatment: Fertility specialists help women explore their reproductive options, including in vitro fertilization (IVF).
- Surgery: If a hormone disorder is related to a tumor, doctors may surgically remove the tumor.
- Medication: Some medicines help control symptoms, and hormone replacement therapy restores hormone levels.
When it comes to hormone therapy, the type will depend on what is being treated. Here are the standard treatments for each of the disorders:
- Birth control pills with estrogen and progestin, along with progestin therapy, for PCOS
- Synthetic thyroid hormone for hypothyroidism and thyroid hormone suppression medication for hyperthyroidism
- Birth control pills with estrogen and progestin, anti-androgens, and a topical cream (for hair growth) to treat hirsutism
- Estrogen therapy and the prescription of calcium and vitamin D supplements for primary ovarian insufficiency
In addition, doctors may prescribe medication to improve fertility and aid conception when necessary.
When preparing for your appointment with your doctor, you want to be ready to:
- Discuss your symptoms (write them down if it’s helpful)
- Discuss your medical history (whether you’ve had ovarian surgery or chemotherapy/radiation treatments)
- Discuss your family history
- Provide a list of prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, and supplements you take
- Ask your doctor any questions you have (write them down if it’s helpful)
It's also important to be prepared for a pelvic exam, so try to schedule your appointment when you are not menstruating.
In most cases, female hormone disorders can be managed through hormone therapy. This will allow you to get back to normal and have a high quality of life.
Unfortunately, PCOS can come with complications, which can be worse if obesity is an issue. Chief among these is infertility, which can be devastating to a woman of childbearing years. In these situations, fertility treatments are an option, as well as exploring other ways to have children, such as adoption. Other potential complications include:
- Premature birth
- Gestational diabetes
- High blood pressure due to pregnancy
- Liver inflammation caused by increased fat in the liver
- Metabolic syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes
- Uterine bleeding not caused by menstruation
- Sleep apnea
- Depression and anxiety
- Endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus)
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.