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Monday, April 6, 2009

Hormones and Hormonal disturbances

I am making this blog entry because of one of my blog readers wanted to know about them.
I am going to try to keep it very very basic and simple giving you very basic details and thus letting you know what symptoms might be serious enough for you to go pay a visit to your family general physician .
What are hormones?
The body has different organs that perform different funtions and all these organs are well connected and function like a well oiled machine with independently functional parts that also need to function as a single unit. Hormones are the substances are produced by various body organs in response to a particular body state. Most of these hormones are released upon higher orders by the brain as and when the brain senses the need for this and this hormones to be released.
What are the hormonal imbalances to look out for and How can I recongnize that something is wrong?
I am not going to go into the details of the various hormones and their functions. I am just going to explain it like I would as a physician would to a layperson. I am gonna give you a list of symptoms and what these symptoms might mean in terms of hormonal disturbances.

1/Excessive loss of weight or Excessive thrist or excessive need for urination -
There just might be a problem with Insulin levels in your blood. Again, loss of weight could be due a thousand other causes including cancer or AIDS or tuberculosis etc, but then this blog entry is all about hormones , so let us stick to that.
An excessive loss of weight could also be thyroid related especially if you see yourself getting angry really frequently, stressed out or have hand tremors and such.

2/ Abnormal gain of weight or abnormal increase in appetite --
There could be a thyroid or insulin or andrenal hormones abnormality.
Please remember that gaining weight is bound to occur if you eat more than you require and there might infact no other abnormality except for the fact that you are just eating too much. Again, there are a thousand coumpounded explanations for basic symptoms like these, but yes, if you are eating moderately and yet are putting on weight , just visit your doctor .

3/Abnormal growth of facial hair along with gain of weight and inability to conceive while trying without contraception -
This i specifically mention because the person who wanted me to write this blog entry was looking hormonal disturbances seen in women and what they must look out for . So yes, If you as a women have had irregular or no periods and have noticed increased facial hair, Might as well be a good idea to go visit your OBGyn to check yourself out for Polycystic Ovarian disease. I am not going to go into hormonal details but it would suffice to say that your ovary(one or both of them) are not ovulating on a regular basis which they should as a rule once every month.

4/Irregular periods or excessive bleeding during periods could be a sign of hormonal imbalance-
A normal bleeding will last from 3-5 days every 28 days. Anything more than or longer than that that or anything more than the normal or usual no. of pads or tampons you used to use before is a sign that something in not right. However, some women might have regular periods that occur for normal number of daysbut every 30-34 days or upto 7 days and such, which could still be normal . Now that we are talking about female sex hormones, I am gonna add a brief note about various hormones produced during a mestrual cycle of a woman. Please note that what I am about to describe are hormonal changes that are NORMAL, they are not abnormalities but just normal hormonal changes that occur in a female body.There are a lot of science and medical website that will provide more scientific explanations , but as I have mentioned before, this blog is about making everything very simple and very basic . Here goes
First five days are going to be the time when the inner lining of your uterus sheds its old lining and gets ready for the next cycle where a brand new inner lining starts growing. So essentially the menstrual blood is not pure blood but the sloughed off innner layer of the uterus. This seems to be nature's way of making sure that inner lining of the uterus is healthy enough to hold on to the zygote and allow it to grow and nurture it if at all a fertilization and conception might occur in the coming cycle.
The first 14 days after bleeding
As I already mentioned, the inner cavity of the uterus is very naked since all of the inner lining is shed out. During the first fourteen days, the ovary is maturing follicles so that eventually one ovum is released on the 14 day. During this time, the inner lining of the uterus or womb starts to grow back and starts to increase in thickness. During this time, hormones like FSH is at play which helps the ovum or egg to be mature enough before getting released. Estrogen is another hormone very important these first fourteen days.
Ovulation or 14th day
This involves releasing of the mature egg. Please remember that if a couple has sex without protection during this day or three days before or after, there is a very high degree of pregnancy. Having said that, if a woman has irregular periods as in she doesn't have a typical 28 day cycle, the day on which she ovulates becomes difficult to predict and thus there is no way to calculate what are the right dates to have safe sex.
A hormone called LH is responsible for release of this mature egg.
Proliferative phase Next 14 days prior to bleeding occurs again
Now this phase is essentially designed to support a zygote(the future fetus) if at all the woman manages to conceive during pregnancy. Which is why, the inner lining gets thicker and gets more glands growing in the inner lining just incase a zygote gets attached. During this phase the predominant hormone that is present is Progesterone which will continue to be on high levels all through pregnancy if at all a pregnancy occurs. Both estrogen and pregesterone are high which prevent new ovum from maturing during this period. Please note that it is during this period tha tmany women experience that there is thickened vaginal secretions instead of water secretions from the vagina if any. Many women also experience water logging and some weight gain due to water retention during this time. Some women might experience breast engorgment too(breasts get slightly painful and heavy ).

I just mentioned all the above because , any abnormality in any of the above mentioned hormones can lead to prolonged or excessive bleeding or bleeding mid cyles etc. Visiting an Obgyn would be a great idea.

5/Abnormal protrusion of eyes almost something that looks like the person is staring constantly , loss of weight, stress,tremors
All these are typical symptoms of thyroid excess. On the contrary weight gain and depression cna be seen with throid undersecretion.

So , in short, abnormal weight gain or less, increased or reduced appetite, abnormal facial hair, abnormal weight gain in all wrong places --especially if a feminine weight distribution starts occuring in man could be a problem with adrenal hormones (which there are many),abnormal periods or inability to conceive etc are all common symptoms that might require your attention. This blog entry is just a simple article to help people wanting to find out basics. Though I am a physician, This blog entry is NOT meant as medical advice, since it is absolutely necessary for a physician to examine you in person and look up some blood tests prior to diagnosis.

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