Introduction: What are hormones?

Hormones are chemical messengers in your body that are produced in your glands, released into your bloodstream, and act by instructing your body on its many functions, from your mood, to growth, to your appetite and reproduction. Usually, these hormones maintain balance in terms of your body’s functioning. Hormone disorders are reasonably common and can often be brought back into balance through either lifestyle changes or through the use of hormone replacement therapy (called HRT).

Why should I have a hormone test at my IPSA Medical clinic?

Hormone tests are indicated when you are worried about specific aspects of your health (e.g. growth, stress levels, your fertility or weight gain/loss) and the type of hormone test your IPSA Medical physician will recommend depends on your particular concerns and/or presenting symptoms.

What are the usual symptoms of hormone disorders?

Your hormones are involved in the majority of your bodily processes and hormone issues cause a multitude of symptoms, however, there are some more usual hormone-disorder symptoms, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Insomnia
  • Diabetes
  • Slow growth
  • Loss of/low libido
  • Weight gain
  • Menopause
  • Infertility

Your IPSA Medical clinic: When will my IPSA Medical doctor recommend a hormone test?

Following your detailed medical history being taken and any symptoms being noted, your skilled IPSA Medical doctor will undertake relevant hormone tests in IPSA Medical’s confidential, clean and client-centred setting. All the recommended tests and results will be simply and clearly explained to you by your IPSA Medical doctor. Your IPSA Medical physician will always encourage you to ask questions about your tests and any treatments your IPSA Medical specialist prescribes.

What are some of the main hormone tests available at my IPSA Medical clinic?

  • Anti-mullerian hormone
  • Cortisol hormone profile
  • Female hormone profile
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone
  • HRT profile
  • Male hormone profile
  • Menopause hormone profile
  • Oestradiol hormone
  • Progesterone hormone
  • Prolactin hormone
  • Sex-binding immunoglobulin
  • Testosterone hormone
  • Thyroid hormone
This tests your ovarian reserve and is used as an estimate of your future fertility. Anti-mullerian hormone (AMH), produced by your granulosa cells in your ovarian follicles, is used as a measure of the size of women’s growing follicle pool, is a marker for the pool size of the remaining primordial follicles (the follicles in a deep-sleep state), and thus is indicative of the remaining egg supply (called the ovarian ‘reserve’). Postponing childbearing reduces fertility, and so measuring your ovarian reserve is important when you are planning future pregnancies or before undergoing IVF treatment. The AMH level decreases in women who are premenopausal, as the quality and number of follicles reduces with age.
Who is the anti-mullerian hormone test for?
This AMH test is for women who might want to postpone pregnancies due to their careers or for those women whose mothers may have had an early menopause and who want to predict their remaining years of fertility.
There are no symptoms/signs to indicate how many fertile years remain and that is why AMH testing is useful for women postponing motherhood.
At your IPSA Medical clinic, cortisol blood tests are used to assess your stress levels and help in the diagnosis of two adrenal disorders: Cushing’s syndrome (too much cortisol) and Addison’s disease (adrenal gland damage leading to too little cortisol).
Cortisol (a steroid which acts like a hormone) is produced in the adrenal gland. Cortisol is a vital steroid due to its involvement in important bodily functions (e.g. immunity; insulin release (blood sugar maintenance); regulating blood pressure). Cortisol (‘the stress hormone’) is secreted during your ‘fight or flight’ response and is also responsible for various stress-related changes in your body.
Prior to making a diagnosis, your IPSA Medical clinician uses the cortisol hormone-profile blood test to determine your current cortisol level.
Who is the cortisol hormone profile test for?
Your IPSA Medical physician will use the cortisol test to diagnose Cushing’s syndrome or Addison’s disease.
Cushing’s syndrome: Symptoms vary but the common symptoms include weight gain involving fatty tissue deposits (usually around your torso, face and sometimes in between your shoulders), easily bruised skin, pink/purple stretch marks, excessive body hair (in women), acne, erectile dysfunction and a decreased libido (in men).
Addison’s disease: Symptoms are hard to pinpoint during the initial stages due to their similarity to those of other conditions: thirst, muscle weakness, fatigue. However, as Addison’s disease develops, the symptoms become recognisable: nausea, muscle cramps, low blood pressure, lip/gum discolouration, brownish skin and a decreased libido.
IPSA Medical’s female hormone profile check determines the levels of the specific hormones that influence your chances of conceiving, your menstrual cycle and your menopause.
Female sex hormones control your reproductive system, with imbalances affecting your fertility and also your menstrual cycle.
IPSA Medical’s female hormone profile check tests for:

  • Oestradiol (involved in your ovarian function)
  • Luteinising hormone (or LH; controls your reproductive system)
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (or FSH; helps to control egg production and also your menstrual cycle)
  • Prolactin (the results are used to determine if you are menstruating)

Who is this female hormone profile check for?
The female hormone profile check is undertaken to monitor specific hormones that can have an impact on the menopause, your fertility and your menstrual cycle.
The signs women experience with a probable female hormone imbalance can include tiredness, a low libido, loss of muscle mass, persistent weight gain, sweating and digestive problems.

Your IPSA Medical follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) test determines the FSH levels present in your blood. FSH, a reproductive system hormone, is produced by your anterior pituitary gland.
Who is the follicle-stimulating hormone test for?
In women, FSH stimulates egg production along with oestradiol (a hormone) during the first half of the menstrual cycle, whereas in men, FSH stimulates their sperm production.
If your IPSA Medical clinician suspects a pituitary disorder or reproductive issues, then an FSH test may be undertaken. This test alongside some other tests might also be undertaken by your IPSA Medical doctor to confirm the menopause. Other reasons for this test include suspected polycystic ovary disease, irregular vaginal bleeding, infertility or ovarian cysts. The FSH test is also indicated in men with infertility issues, in men with no (or underdeveloped) testicles, and in children with early sexual development.
The symptoms of an FSH imbalance vary but can include anxiety, depression, insomnia and fatigue.
This IPSA Medical hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) profile test measures your progesterone, oestrogen and FSH levels and is for those women currently taking HRT.
In general terms, HRT involves replacing hormones that you are deficient in. In this case, the IPSA Medical HRT profile test refers to the use of oestrogen and progesterone for menopausal symptom relief (e.g. sleep disturbance, hot flushes, lethargy and vaginal dryness). The oestrogen hormones also help women by preventing osteoporosis and atherosclerosis.
Who is this HRT profile test for?
The IPSA Medical HRT profile test is for women on HRT who want to know if an optimum hormone balance is being achieved with their therapy.
This IPSA Medical comprehensive blood test is for the hormones that govern male fertility and ‘masculinity’.
At your IPSA Medical clinic, your male hormone profile check measures testosterone and other hormones, and includes:

  • A DHEAS (dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate) test
  • A Free Androgen Index test (to determine abnormal androgen levels)
  • An LH (luteinising hormone) test
  • An FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) test
  • An SHBG (sex hormone-binding globulin) test

Men approaching their late 40s/early 50s can often experience impotence, loss of their sex drive and depression due to natural reductions in testosterone levels. By 40, testosterone levels are half of what they were in a man’s 20s. By 50, a third, and by 60, testosterone levels are at a quarter of their peak level.
This testosterone drop combined with a drop in other hormones may also indicate the start of some degenerative diseases that can afflict men as they age (e.g. obesity, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and adult-onset diabetes).
Who is this male hormone profile check for?
This IPSA Medical male hormone profile check is for men who wish to have their male hormone levels tested as they age.
Symptoms can include a loss of muscle strength, erectile difficulties, a lack of motivation, irritability, a loss of sex drive, a backache and hypochondriasis (when your testes produce few/no hormones).

The female menopause takes place when the ovaries produce less oestrogen hormones, leading to menstruation stopping. Other hormonal changes also occur (e.g. increased levels of androgen hormones and gonadotrophin). The menopause onsets usually between 45 and 55, but can occur earlier or later.
Bone-density reduction is pronounced at 2–5 years post-menopause, which could lead to osteoporosis. Blood fats increase, sometimes resulting in atherosclerosis, thereby increasing risk for both circulatory disease and strokes. If your menopause symptoms are severe, your IPSA Medical physician may recommend HRT.
Who is the menopause hormone profile for?
IPSA Medical’s menopause hormone-profile test is for women who are looking for menopause treatment or for the early signs of their menopause to be confirmed.
Lethargy, vaginal dryness, hot flushes and sleep disturbance are the main menopausal symptoms. Symptom severity varies, with some having only minor/few symptoms and others needing treatment (e.g. HRT).
Oestradiol, a steroid that acts like a hormone and is secreted by the ovaries, accounts for 80% of oestrogen in women’s bodies and is thus responsible for the maintenance and development of female reproductive structures such as preparing for fertility, bone density maintenance, fat distribution and preparing follicles for egg release. The oestradiol test measures the oestradiol level in your body.
Who is the oestradiol test for?
The IPSA Medical oestradiol test is for women as a way of monitoring their oestradiol levels or explaining any heavy bleeding, menopausal symptoms or abnormal periods.
Symptoms of an oestradiol hormonal imbalance include heavy vaginal bleeding, menopausal symptoms or unusual or early sex organ development in both males/females.
This IPSA Medical simple blood test measures your progesterone concentration. Progesterone, a key female hormone, is secreted from your adrenal glands and corpus luteum.
If planning a pregnancy, healthy progesterone levels are essential because progesterone works in combination with oestrogen to prepare your body for conception.
Post-ovulation, progesterone increases can produce uncomfortable symptoms associated with PMS.
Progesterone has other actions within your body: improving fat metabolism, mood elevation, acting as a natural diuretic and increasing your bone density. Low progesterone levels can be due to stress, a bad diet, being obese and using birth control pills.
Who is the progesterone hormone test for?
The IPSA Medical progesterone test is especially useful for women who are planning a pregnancy. You might also consider the progesterone test at your IPSA Medical clinic if you are menopausal, are unable to conceive or have heavy, irregular, absent or painful periods.
Symptoms of a progesterone/oestrogen imbalance in women: anxiety, insomnia, weight gain, depression, migraines, cancer, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids and osteoporosis. Symptoms in men of an imbalance include weight gain, prostate enlargement and a loss of their libido.
The IPSA Medical simple prolactin (PRL) blood test determines if your PRL levels are lower or higher than the normal level.
PRL (also known as ‘lactotrope’) is a protein produced at the base of your brain (anterior pituitary gland). Even though the PRL protein occurs in low levels in men, it is best known for its role in the production of breast milk.
During both pregnancy and breastfeeding, the levels of PRL remain high. Increased PRL levels can also be caused by prolactinoma (usually a benign (non-cancerous) pituitary gland tumour). If the tumour enlarges, headaches and/or visual impairment can occur, and in severe cases, the result can be both irregular periods/infertility in women, and a loss of male sex drive.
This PRL test measures prolactin levels and determines if your pituitary gland is working efficiently.
Who is this prolactin test for?
The IPSA Medical PRL test is used to determine PRL levels.
Symptoms of higher than normal PRL levels: headaches, infertility, producing milk when not pregnant/breastfeeding (galactorrhea) and visual impairments. People with an underactive thyroid gland may also have increased PRL levels.
The IPSA Medical sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) test measures the SHGB levels in your blood.
SHBG, a protein produced in men and women by the liver, works by attaching to three other sex hormones: testosterone, oestrogen and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Testosterone, perhaps the most important hormone of the three, causes medical issues if its level is too high or low. SHBG controls the amount of testosterone your body tissue can use.
The IPSA Medical SHBG test is used to gauge your testosterone, oestrogen and DHT levels and takes into account your sex, your age, and any current medical conditions (e.g. obesity; liver disease; hyperthyroidism), as all of these factors can affect your SHBG levels.
Who is the sex hormone-binding globulin test for?
The SHBG test is ideal for both women and men who want to know what their SHBG level is.
Symptoms of an SHBG level imbalance: a low sex drive (men) and increased body hair (women).
Testosterone produces ‘male’ characteristics, regulating sex drive and controlling strength, muscle mass, fat distribution, bone mass, sperm and red blood cell production. Steroid use, liver disease and heavy alcohol use can decrease testosterone levels. However, women on oestrogen therapy usually also have increased testosterone levels.
The IPSA Medical testosterone test checks for unusual testosterone levels which may affect the male sexual libido, may cause erectile issues and/or infertility in men and may lead to women developing certain ‘male characteristics’ (e.g. excessive hair).
Who is the testosterone hormone test for?
The IPSA Medical testosterone test is for men and women to establish what their testosterone levels currently are. It is useful for men experiencing infertility, difficulties in getting an erection, or delayed puberty. For women, the testosterone test is undertaken as a marker for polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Symptoms in men: decreased sex drive, testicular tumours, infertility, delayed puberty, or erectile problems. Symptoms in women: infertility and high levels of body hair.
The IPSA Medical thyroid hormone test is a simple blood test to determine if your thyroid is underactive (hypothyroidism) or overactive (hyperthyroidism).
Your thyroid gland in your neck produces all the necessary hormones to regulate your metabolism.
Women tend to have more thyroid problems than men do and your risk is also higher for thyroid disease if you (or a family member) suffer from an autoimmune disease, because many thyroid issues are linked to your own antibodies attacking your thyroid gland.
The IPSA Medical thyroid test includes the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test as a measure of your thyroid function. This test also monitors the current treatment effectiveness for already diagnosed thyroid problems. At IPSA Medical, your thyroid antibodies are also assessed as this helps your IPSA Medical physician to establish the reasons for your thyroid disease.
Who is the thyroid hormone test for?
The IPSA Medical thyroid hormone test is recommended to assess thyroid function or if you present with an underactive or overactive thyroid.
Around 3% of adults are affected by thyroid issues. Although the initial symptoms are usually mild and non-specific, if they are left untreated, they may become debilitating. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can produce a swelling in the thyroid gland (i.e. goitre) but other symptoms can also occur without any goitre being obvious.
Hypothyroidism symptoms can include:

  • Difficulties losing weight
  • Lethargy/excessive sleeping
  • Constant weight gain (even when eating the same)
  • Constipation
  • Feeling cold when other people feel warm
  • Depression
  • Dry hair/brittle nails
  • A slow heartbeat
  • Fertility issues
  • Muscle aches/pains

Hyperthyroidism symptoms can include:

  • Tremors
  • Feeling fidgety/nervous
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Hair loss
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent bowel movements (or diarrhoea)
  • Palpitations
  • Feeling hot/sweaty
  • Fertility issues
  • Muscle weakness

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