Hormone Testing: What To Check And Why
Questions about hormone testing are common among my patients and on social media. Women want to know which hormones they need to check and why. They also want to know what hormones and other biomarkers can be tested at home. In this video and accompanying article, I cover the biomarkers that I check for myself and my patients approximately once per quarter. Note that not all biomarkers I discuss below have been validated for blood spot testing versus the gold standard of a blood draw for serum testing, which is what I use for treatment decisions. Still, one can infer trends and screen for problems to investigate further. My highest recommendation is to perform serum testing for all treatment decisions, though that may be difficult during quarantine and lockdown. I created this video to show the blood spot test that I am performing in lockdown, even with the caveat that it is not considered the gold standard for all tests mentioned in this article.
Use Your Symptoms As Your Guide
For more serious cases and symptoms, hormone testing can be very helpful. But for most women who experience the normal, if unpleasant, fluctuations of hormones during perimenopause and menopause, hormone tests are not generally needed â nor will they offer many answers. The best way to measure your hormones during perimenopause and menopause is to evaluate your symptoms. Take our quick hormonal profile to see how your symptoms rate.
Are There Any Other Factors That Might Affect The Outcome Of The Test
The blood level of several hormones changes significantly with the time of day. For example, cortisol and testosterone are highest in the early morning. The response of glands to hormones given to patients during dynamic tests may also show this diurnal variation for example, the response of the adrenal gland to synacthen is higher in the morning.
The day of the menstrual cycle also has a major impact on hormone levels. In general, blood samples are best taken in the first half of the cycle when normal and abnormal hormone levels are more clearly separated. However, progesterone may be deliberately measured on day 21 in the middle of the second half to see if ovulation has occurred.
It is human nature to ignore doctors advice. Not taking medication as prescribed, or taking extra the week before the test in an effort to make up for doses missed previously, will give misleading results and the patient may miss out on a full return to health.
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How To Get Your Hormones Tested And What To Do Next
Last updated on by Alisa Vitti
So, youve been feeling less than great lately maybe the first sign was irregular or heavy and painful periods, or maybe it was some weight gain and acne either way, you know something is wrong and you want to feel better. Youre thinking it might be hormone-related. What now?
Many women take a trip to their OBGYN and ask for a hormone test. This is a great first step towards treating your health issues. But the results can be confusing and concerning without a little background information and preparation. Knowledge is power! Theres no need to be mystified.
Remember: no result received is static, the diagnosis you get can and will change with the right kind of treatment.
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Where Should I Get A Hormone Balance Test And Other Faqs About Hormone Testing
You should get your hormones tested!
How many times have you heard that comment? Were often encouraged to look closely at our hormones when we experience symptoms that hint at conditions like hypothyroidism, menopause, or low testosterone. Indeed, fatigue, depression, hair loss, weight gain, weight loss, temperature sensitivity, mood changes, sleep disturbances, and anxiety are all common symptoms of hormonal changes or imbalances. But even if you know that a hormone test might be a good idea, you may not know what it entailsor where to get one.
Hormone testing is a very simple process. Its quick, easy, highly accessible, and can reveal critical information about your health. But hormone testing can only work if you know which tests to get and what the results mean. By exploring the basics of hormone testing, you can ensure you get the information and the support you need.
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Hormone Imbalance And Hormone Testing
A woman’s hormones are constantly changing and the slightest imbalance can change how you feel day to day. A hormonal imbalance can affect the menstrual cycle, mood, metabolism, libido, and sleep. Testing hormones is a critical step in understanding a womanâs reproductive and general health. Knowing if you have a hormonal imbalance is the first step to understanding the changes you may be experiencing in your body.
What Is Hormonal Imbalance In Men
The most common hormonal imbalances in men are related to testosterone levels. Men may experience low levels of testosterone due to disorders, like hypogonadism for example when the testes cannot produce an adequate supply of testosterone. More commonly, aging is the underlying cause, with testosterone production gradually diminishing over time, beginning around age 40. For some men, levels fall so low that the body’s basic needs for the hormone cannot be fulfilled, which can lead to many of the symptoms listed above. Other factors that can contribute to low testosterone levels include excessive stress, poor diet, obesity and regular excessive alcohol use.
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Testing For A Hormonal Imbalance
There are numerous types of tests for your doctor to choose from in order to detect a hormonal imbalance. Your symptoms will surely put him in the right direction. So, you do need to fully disclose to your doctor about your signs and symptoms for him to order the right hormones to be tested.
A blood test is one of the most common ways to test hormone levels. This test can detect testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, and thyroid levels. You should order a test that’s specific to your gender, as a women’s hormone test will look for different levels of sex hormones than a men’s test. A simple saliva test can detect several types of hormones as well. With a saliva test, you can look at your estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone levels.
If your doctor is concerned about a particular gland in your body, he or she might order an ultrasound. This can be the case of testing the pituitary gland, uterus, testicles, ovaries, and thyroid. An X-ray or MRI will offer further opportunities for imaging. Depending on the results of prior tests, additional types of testing might often be needed to have a better diagnosis. A biopsy of a problematic gland can help your healthcare provider find issues with that specific gland.
How Does A Hormone Balance Test Work
Hormone levels are typically measured through small samples of blood, urine, and/or saliva. Depending on what symptoms you experience, these samples will be evaluated by a lab to measure a variety of hormones, including:
The lab results will show a snapshot of your current hormone levels at the time the samples were taken. Many of these hormones fluctuate over the course of a day, or throughout the month, so you may need to fast prior to testing, get tested at certain points in your menstrual cycle, and/or get multiple tests to get an accurate picture of your hormonal health.
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How To Check For Thyroid Problems
Part 2 of 2: Checking Your Thyroid 1 Examine your neck. Use a mirror to check the base of your neck. 2 Check for long-lasting symptoms. Look for symptoms that last longer than two to three weeks. 3 Keep track of your symptoms. 4 Have your blood checked by your doctor. 5 Be prepared for additional tests.
How To Check Hormone Levels With A Blood Test
The easiest and most straightforward method for checking hormone levels is blood testing. Almost all key hormones can be detected in the blood. A blood sample can show your doctor the levels of important hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and thyroid hormone. In some cases, your doctor may want to obtain a second set of test results to confirm findings.
How Tech Can Help Track Stress Levels
First, it was step trackers. Then, it was heart rate monitors. Now, stress monitoring is the latest evolution of wearable technology in the world of health and wellness and you can conveniently track it all on your phone.
Having a bad day? Your fitness tracker can now recognize that. Feeling ecstatic about personal news? Your fitness tracker can identify that, too. Well explore what makes this possible and how companies have tapped into new and existing technology to track stress levels.
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Treatment For A Hormonal Imbalance
There are many different treatment options for hormonal imbalances. The treatment you ultimately be given will depend on which hormone exactly is unbalance as well as the underlying cause of the imbalance. Sometimes, a life event might cause such a fluctuation in your hormones, such as menopause. In that case, your treatment would be short term one. However, if you have a genetic disorder that causes a lifelong hormonal imbalance, you will need to pursue a more prolonged course of medications.
Hormone therapy is a common treatment for hormonal imbalances. Women who are witnessing uncomfortable menopausal symptoms may choose estrogen therapy. Testosterone therapy is a common choice for men with low testosterone levels or adolescents facing delayed puberty. Taking thyroid hormones can help individuals with hypothyroidism. Such hormone replacement therapies may come in the form of pills, patches, or even injections. Your doctor will help you choose the appropriate dosage by checking your hormone levels test results. This is how he will determine the right amount of supplemented hormone you will need to recreate the balance.
Bioidentical hormones can be produced by pharmaceutical companies using different doses. Examples include bi-estrogen which is 50 to 80 percent estriol combined with estradiol, or tri-estrogen which is 10 percent estrone, 10 percent estradiol, and 80 percent estriol.
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How Adults Can Prepare
Your doctor will typically ask you to take more than one kind of test.
You may need the stimulation test, as well as some of these other tests:
- The IGF-1 and IGFBP-3 tests, which check the amount of a different but related hormones
- Tests to check for issues with other hormones, including cortisol, prolactin, and testosterone
Children will also typically get a combination of these tests.
If you need to take a growth hormone stimulation test, you may need to:
Fast: Some medical experts recommend up to 12 hours without food before the test. Talk to your doctor about this beforehand to find out what you should do in your case.
Donât exercise: Workouts 10 hours or less before the test can throw off resting hormone levels.
Testing takes up to 3 hours, so you should also dress comfortably and bring a book or some entertainment.
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Introduction To Laboratory Tests
Laboratory tests seek to answer questions raised by doctors after talking with and examining the patient. For example: How can I confirm the diagnosis? Are related illnesses present? Is the treatment working? Are side-effects present?
Laboratory tests are usually carried out on samples such as blood, dried blood spots on a card, saliva, single urine samples and 24-hour urine collections. The type of sample will depend on what is being measured, the accuracy required and/or the age of the patient. Once the sample is taken, the patient does not need to be present for the results to be produced.
The results of hormone tests when healthy vary in response to natural pressures such as food, drink, rest, exercise and the menstrual cycle, which can make results in health and disease overlap. In dynamic tests doses of hormones, drugs, glucose and natural pressures such as exercise or restriction of water intake, are used to control the influences on results and make them more predictable.
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Menopause Blood Test What Is It
As a woman ages, her reproductive system begins to produce fewer hormones as well as less of those hormones, especially estrogen. Because of this, your body is signaled to begin producing more FSH . The blood test will measure both of these levels against each other, as well as individually.
If you have multiple symptoms, this test alone may not be able to come to a definitive conclusion, so your doctor may require further tests. Along with the tests for these two hormones, there may be other parameters that need to be checked.
We are referring to things like the TSH and T4 hormones, which are produced by your thyroid. When out of whack, these hormones can also be a key sign that menopause has begun. Along with this, your physician may also ask for your LH levels to be checked. This hormone helps stimulate the reproductive systems and is created in the pituitary gland.
Top Home Menopause Tests
People can find various home menopause tests online. Below is a range of tests to consider.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.
Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.
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What The Results Mean
If progesterone levels are low during pregnancy, it could be a sign that you’re at risk of miscarriage or premature labor. You may be given a synthetic form of progesterone to prevent early labor.
High progesterone levels usually do not signal any health problems unless they continue for a long time. In those instances, high levels may indicate an increased risk of breast cancer.
Why Do I Need An Estrogen Test
You may need an estradiol test or an estrone test if you:
- Are having trouble getting pregnant
- Are a woman of childbearing age who is not having periods or having abnormal periods
- Are a girl with early or delayed puberty
- Have symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and/or night sweats
- Have vaginal bleeding after menopause
- Are a boy with delayed puberty
- Are a man showing female characteristics, such as the growth of breasts
If you are pregnant, your health care provider may order an estriol test between the 15th and 20th week of pregnancy as part of a prenatal test called a triple screen test. It can find out if your baby is at risk for a genetic birth defect such as Down syndrome. Not all pregnant women need to get an estriol test, but it is recommended for women who have a higher risk of having a baby with a birth defect. You may be at a higher risk if you:
- Have a family history of birth defects
- Are age 35 or older
- Have a viral infection during pregnancy
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Is There More Blood Work To Check Your Hormones
When I first began studying neuro-immune-endocrinology, I played around with lots of different laboratory tests to try to determine what would confirm or deny what I was seeing in my patients. I did 24-hour urine tests, salivary tests, and blood tests. Urine reveals hormone metabolites, while saliva can indicate hormones at the tissue level. Blood reveals what hormones are available in the body. None of these tests truly tell us exactly whats going on with your hormones, which is why its more important to assess the signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance, and use the lab tests to confirm.
I know this is a lot of complicated information, which is why you should sign up for my free Hormone Reboot Training. Here youll get exclusive access to the same education I give to my patients I help them interpret their results.
Hope to see you there!
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What Are The Different Types Of Hormones
Endocrine glands are located throughout the body. These glands include the:
- Hypothalamus: controls thirst, hunger, sleep, sex drive, moods, body temperature, and the release of other hormones
- Parathyroid: controls calcium
- Ovaries, in women: controls female sex hormones
- Testes, in men: controls male sex hormones
There are several different types of hormones in the body. When you have a hormonal imbalance, you may have a problem in one of more of these glands. The specific hormone that’s imbalanced will determine the signs and symptoms that you experience as a result. Some of the major hormones found in the body include:
- Estrogen: controls sex drive in both men and women, and regulates the menstrual cycle in women
- Progesterone: influences the body’s changes through pregnancy
- Testosterone: controls sex drive in both men and women
- Cortisol: controls stress
- Melatonin: control’s the body’s circadian rhythm and sleep cycles
- Serotonin: controls sleep cycles, appetite, and mood
- Growth hormone: controls the reproduction of cells and their subsequent growth
- Leptin: controls appetite, signaling when you’re full
- Ghrelin: controls appetite, signaling when you’re hungry
- Insulin: responds to sugar in the bloodstream
If your hormones are well-balanced, you will thrive. An imbalance, however, is something you cannot afford to ignore.
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