Hormones Are NOT Just For PMS, Hot-Flashes and Mood Swings Any More!
I've been speaking up and speaking out about pituitary hormonal disorders for the past almost fourteen years and I still I find people's reaction shocking, when I start talking in a social setting about hormones and/or about hormonal disorders. Women will either stop talking, change the topic of conversation, or start talking about the bio-identical hormones their doctor started them on without knowing anything about their own personal hormone levels or even which hormones the doctor has them using. Some women even act embarrassed to hear the words hormonal imbalance, like it's a dirty word. And of course you've always got at least a couple of women who start to chime in about their hot flashes but yet have never spoken to their doctor about it because they've been taught that women are supposed to suffer with hot flashes at a certain age. I've noticed that most men mainly start to care about hormones when their wife starts to have hot flashes or as one man called it, "My Wife's Power Surges!"
It's upsetting that most people immediately think of a negative experience when you mention "hormones". The typical conversation about hormones leads to talk about negative experiences with weight gain, PMS, hot flashes, menstrual cramps or acne. This disturbs me for many reasons - mainly because of the horrible lack of education and huge misunderstandings many people have about hormones. Also, most women I talk to have a lot of shame or unease connected with hormones. And let's not forget about our men; when I talk about hormones to most men they tend to act like, "Why is she talking to me about hormones? - I'm a man!" Well guys, it's time to let the cat out of the bag: men have hormones too, and more than just testosterone.
However, testosterone (and the lack thereof) is the one hormone the media loves to talk about. But the good majority of men only like to talk about testosterone when they have plenty of it. However, let them realize they don't have enough and they will either avoid the matter completely or try and find a quick fix. This is why we have so many commercials on TV for erectile dysfunction.
I remember how frustrating it was for me when I was desperately seeking help from our medical community for undiagnosed Cushing's disease. (Cushing's is an insidious hormonal disorder caused by a pituitary brain tumor). Because of the tumor, I gained 100 pounds in just one year. The tumor was over producing the hormone ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which travels through the bloodstream, metabolizes in the adrenal glands, which release our one life-sustaining hormone: cortisol. In a diseased state, too much or too little cortisol can be life-threatening if left untreated.
Low libido can be a definite symptom of a hormonal imbalance. I spent a lot of time going from doctor to doctor searching for answers to whatever was causing my multitude of health issues. I would often run through my laundry list of symptoms, hoping that would give the doctor clues to solving my medical mystery. I was desperate for help because the undiagnosed Cushing's disease was diminishing my quality of life and I was very sick, without much hope of living another year if someone didn't figure out what was killing me. I remember on one of my doctor's visits, I shared with my new doctor my concerns about my unexplainable poor health issues. I explained not only about the 100 pound weight gain and other health problems I was dealing with. I also told him that I had lost my sex drive. I hoped this would trigger some medical "aha!" But I will never forget the doctor's response, "Well, if you would lose some weight, you would probably feel better about yourself and you would have more of a sex drive." We don't need to put into writing the suggestions I had for him...
After struggling for so many years to get a doctor to listen to me, I was furious with his diagnosis but not surprised. I simply added him to my list of doctors to send a nice letter to once I figured out what was medically wrong with me. I can't help but wonder if I would have been a man complaining about low libido, would they have checked my hormones? We'll never know but I'm betting the doctor would not have told him to lose weight in order to help with his libido.
Unfortunately this is the bias that society as well as our medical community has about people who are overweight and especially women who are overweight. They think, "Women are supposed to have low sex drive. It's their hormones, you know." Or for some reason there are people who believe that all overweight women have low self-esteem. Have you noticed on TV it's always the chubby child that falls down running across the field? You don't see many romantic comedies out of Hollywood where the gorgeous guy falls in love with the dress size 18 co-worker! I wonder when they will make a movie where the love interest is larger than my number two pencil!?! If we could just get the media, medical professional and society to see people as people, I believe it would alleviate many of our public health problems. It would have saved me years of poor quality of life.
Pituitary patients are giving doctors all the clues to a correct diagnosis but far too many of our medical professionals are not up on current, accurate information about hormonal disorders. So the patient often suffers for years untreated. In far too many cases, the patient is never treated at all. Most pituitary/hormonal patients are obese because of the tumor but yet they are blamed for being overweight.
In one study of nurses:
• 31 percent said they would prefer not to care for obese patients.
• 24 percent agreed that obese patients "repulsed them".
• 12 percent said they would prefer not to touch obese patients.
Although we women have the reputation of going to the doctor more often than men, many obese women are ashamed to go to see a doctor. Usually they feel this way because at some point a doctor or their staff has made the obese patient feel embarrassed about their weight. They are often made to feel the medical team (which should be helping them) actually blames them for their poor health. This is a huge problem.
(The details of one such study is spelled out in this article) http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/resources/upload/docs/what/reports/Rudd_Policy_Brief_Weight_Bias.pdf
This is why I see the absolute necessity of educating the public on the wonderful topic of hormones. We need to reeducate society as well as our medical community about the importance of hormones and their relationship to our quality of life. It's imperative that people start to understand that hormones are just as crucial to our quality of life as a healthy heart, brain, kidneys or any other major vital organ.
So, always remember: Hormones don't just cause PMS, hot-flashes and mood swings in women, and low libido in men. They are a vital part of overall good health. They should not be feared but rather understood and highly respected. I want both women and men to start understanding their hormones better. Many of the men who call me for help have waited so long to seek medical attention that their condition has become chronic and life-threatening. This is a big problem when a man has a hormonal dysfunction caused by a pituitary tumor. In many cases they could have been treated either with medication or surgery and continued a normal healthy life, had they not waited so long before letting their physician know they were having headaches and/or hormonal issues.
Unfortunately, I meet far too many men who end up with zero hormonal function and have to be on complete hormone replacement because the once-small, noninvasive pituitary tumor grew too close to parts of the pituitary region and could no longer be removed completely. In some cases, this can cause pituitary failure. Worse, they can cause partial or complete vision loss.
If your physician or close friends and family are not educated on pituitary/hormonal disorders, please use the Pituitary Network Association's website (www.pituitary.org) to help educate them. Also, we have many wonderful videos on our pituitary patient support group website. Hormonal disorders can often be treated if a timely diagnosis is made; however, far too often people become disabled simple because of a lack of education and awareness - not because we don't have the technology for proper treatment. That's not acceptable.
Please join us for our next Pituitary Patient Support Group Meeting in L.A.: April 08th, 2014. For more information please visit our website www.brian-tumor.org and watch our support group video. Hope to see you there.
Pass It On!!!
Peace and Blessings,
Patient Advocate, Published Author, Professional Speaker and MUCH More!!!!