That’s a great question and together, we can figure that out. We consider the symptom picture as well as physical measurements in diagnosing hormone imbalances.
Some symptoms point rather easily to hormones:
Premenstrual issues such as depression and anxiety, breast tenderness or digestive complaints in the 1-2 weeks before your period and interfere with daily living.
Menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood issues, insomnia, vaginal dryness, again considering how symptoms are interfering with your life.
Sexual concerns such as low libido, painful sex or difficulty having an orgasm.
Other symptoms are more vague and multifactorial:
Fatigue, weight gain, mental fog, insomnia, depression and anxiety, joint and muscle pain are all symptoms of hormonal imbalance, but have other causes as well.
Some confusion arises when we consider different means of testing hormone levels. The most widely accepted method is a blood test. A problem with this method is that the results provide a snapshot of circulating hormones in that moment of time only, and our hormone levels fluctuate greatly throughout the day. It can, however, provide valuable information to be used for treatment.
Saliva testing has the benefit of allowing us to measure diurnal rhythms and gain an understanding of how hormone levels fluctuate throughout the day. Again, with this method, we are looking only at hormone availability.
For the most comprehensive analysis, Dr. Eckel and I are big fans of dried urine testing in addition to blood tests. We like these two methods combined because not only can we gain information about available hormone levels, we can learn about their metabolites as well. This tells us how much of each hormone the body is utilizing and provides the most complete picture, particularly when we are looking at cortisol and estrogen.
More important than all the testing in the world is the clinical picture, determined during our visit with you. How do you feel? How would you describe your current state of health? How is your energy level? Are hormone related issues negatively impacting your life?
We’re here to help. Hope to see you in the office!
Linda Anzalone, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner