There are many websites online offering “hormonal imbalance quizzes” that allow a user to share some of their symptoms and receive a diagnosis. Individuals are often curious about whether this type of online solution is actually effective for diagnosing hormonal issues.
In this article we’ll explain the issues we have with hormonal imbalance quizzes, and share some research-backed alternatives.
Symptoms Cannot Diagnose Hormonal Issues
It’s an established fact in the medical world that it's impossible to diagnose a patient based on their symptoms alone. If a patient visits their doctor’s office claiming to feel ill, the doctor won’t prescribe antiviral medication based on the patient's symptoms. Instead, they’ll run tests to determine if there’s an actual illness to treat with medication.
Unfortunately, many hormonal quizzes online do diagnose medical conditions based on symptoms alone, which we consider to be dangerous. Hormone-altering medications and supplements can have serious side effects, and we strongly recommend that individuals consult a doctor and receive legitimate medical testing if they believe they're experiencing hormonal imbalances.
As an example to illustrate why symptoms alone cannot diagnose hormonal conditions, consider a patient experiencing symptoms like hot flashes, anxiety and insomnia. This could be caused by a hormonal issue like a thyroid disorder, but it could also be caused by situational stress.
It's important to determine the root cause of the symptoms, and medical testing is the most logical way to do so.
What Hormones Should I Test For?
To determine whether or not an individual actually has hormonal issues, medical testing is necessary. Some tests can be completed at a regular doctor's office, while the doctor might refer a patient to a hormone specialist like an endocrinologist for certain tests, or if they suspect an issue.
Here are some common tests run for suspected hormone issues:
Men experiencing low energy, fatigue, lack of sex drive or physical weakness may benefit from testosterone blood testing.
Testosterone tests are relatively commonplace, so they're frequently covered by health insurance, especially for men over the age of 40.
For patients with low testosterone that's unable to be improved with lifestyle modifications like diet and exercise, a doctor may prescribe testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) which can normalize levels.
Women experience varying levels of estrogen throughout their life, and the changes accelerate through menopause.
An estrogen test can determine the level of circulating estrogen in the blood.
According to the University of Rochester, symptoms of low estrogen (which is more common than high estrogen) are hot flashes, moodiness and thinning skin.
Thyroid function tests typically test for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), T4 and T3 (specific thyroid hormones).
Some patients have hyperthyroidism, which means their thyroid gland produces too much hormone. This can result in symptoms like anxiety, insomnia and erratic mood.
Other patients suffer from hypothyroidism which means their thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormone. Hypothyroid patients commonly present with weakness, fatigue and sensitivity to cold.
Like testosterone tests, thyroid tests are very common and sometimes even included in standard blood panels. If a doctor decides these tests are necessary, they are usually covered by health insurance.
Cortisol is a hormone involved in the stress response. Testing for cortisol levels can confirm chronic stress, because an elevated cortisol level suggests that the patient is experiencing an activated stress response (such as the "fight-or-flight response") frequently.
Chronic stress patients may have anxiety, irritability, insomnia and muscle aches.
Cortisol testing is somewhat less common than testosterone, estrogen or thyroid testing, and it may require a specialist appointment.
One benefit of cortisol testing is it can confirm the existence of health issues caused by anxiety (or other factors). If a patient has significantly elevated cortisol they may want to incorporate lifestyle changes like meditation which is proven to reduce stress levels. Doctors may also prescribe anti-anxiety medication.
There are a number of other hormonal tests that a doctor may order to diagnose hormonal imbalance; these are just four of the most commonly-ordered.