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How to read your hormone lab results.

Hormones are chemical messengers that tell your body, tissues, and organs what to do. There are approximately 50 different hormones produced in the endocrine glands that travel around the body controlling processes such as growth, fertility, metabolism, mood, sexual function, and more.

With hormones controlling so many different processes in the body, many problems can arise when they are out of balance. Problems such as diabetes, weight gain/loss, infertility, sexual dysfunction, muscle weakness, fatigue, hair loss, insomnia, growth problems, mood swings, and low sex drive are just a few symptoms that you may experience if you are experiencing hormonal imbalance.
Your hormones can become imbalanced for several reasons. Sometimes, it happens as a process of aging, and sometimes it may be the result of a condition, or your endocrine glands not working correctly. Even stress can impact your hormones. Men, women, and children can all experience hormonal imbalance although symptoms may differ between sexes and ages. Some conditions affect both men and women such as diabetes, hyper/hypothyroidism, tumors, medication side effects, trauma, and adrenal insufficiency to name a few. Women may also experience hormonal imbalance due to menopause, pregnancy, breastfeeding, birth control side effects, polycystic ovary syndrome, and primary ovarian insufficiency. Men can experience prostate problems and hypogonadism (low testosterone) which, can both cause hormonal imbalance.

As both women and men experience hormonal imbalance differently, it is important to recognize symptoms of imbalance so that you can work with your doctor accordingly. Hormone testing is a quick and effective way of pinpointing which hormones are imbalanced so that your doctor can develop an individualized treatment plan for you. However, with such a large range of hormones and tests, the results can be confusing. To help give you a better understanding of what your hormone test results mean, here is some information about the most commonly used hormone tests.

What do my results mean?

Common abbreviations. 

Abbreviation

Meaning

cmm

Cells per cubic milliliter

fL (femtoliter)

Fraction of one-millionth of a liter

g/dL

Grams per deciliter

IU/L

International units per liter

mcg/dL

Micrograms per decilitre

mEq/L

Milliequivalent per liter

mIU/mL

milli-international units per milliliter

mg/dL

Milligrams per deciliter

mL

Milliliter

mmol/L

Millimoles per liter

ng/mL

Nanograms per milliliter

ng/dL

Nanograms per decilitre

pg (picogram)

One-trillionth of a gram

pg/mL

Picograms per milliliter

mcL

Microliter


What is a reference range?

A reference range is also known as normal values, and is determined by examining the normal test results of a group of healthy people. Most typical people will sit within this reference range.

However not everyone is 'typical'. Even if your results fall within the normal range you could still experience symptoms. If you are completely healthy it is also possible for your results to fall outside of the reference range. If either of these scenarios occur you will need further investigations. 

False positives and negatives.
It is possible to test positive for a condition you don't have or test negative for a condition you do have-but it is rare. This may happen if the test is not carried out correctly, it is done at the wrong time, or there are problems with the equipment. It is important to understand that it can happen however, it is not common.

Difference in reference ranges at different laboratories.
Reference ranges can differ between laboratories due to varying operating conditions, differing criteria for selection of healthy subjects, and different populations. Test results can be confusing, therefore it is important to speak to your physician if there is anything you don’t understand or are concerned about.

Common hormone test results, values and what they mean.

Growth hormone tests.


Growth hormone, also known as human growth hormone, is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and is responsible for normal growth and development. If growth hormone levels are too high or too low then it can cause problems with your bones and muscle mass. Too little growth hormone can reduce your muscle mass and reduce your bone density. Too much growth hormone in adults can cause a rare condition called acromegaly where the bones begin to thicken. Pituitary tumors can also cause growth hormone problems in adults and children. It is important to remember that growth hormone imbalances, and the conditions that cause them, are rare.

In children, growth hormones may be tested to see if there is a growth hormone deficiency causing delayed growth or puberty. A condition called gigantism can be caused by too much growth hormone in children.

The two most common growth hormone tests are:


Test name

Overview

Reference range
(Normal range)

Human Growth Hormone

As growth hormone is released in pulses the levels can vary greatly at different times of the day. Therefore, the test results are rarely informative on their own. Often a suppression or stimulation test is done to get the most useful results.

Adult males - 0.4 to 10 ng/mL
Adult females - 1 to 14 ng/mL
Children - 10 to 50 ng/mL
Suppression test-below 0.3 ng/mL
Stimulation test-above 5 ng/mL in children.
Stimulation test-above 4 ng/mL in adults.

Insulin Like Growth Factor (IGF-1)

This is often ordered at the same time as growth hormone test. IGF-1 remains stable and does not fluctuate. One specimen is needed to record both results. Growth hormone and IGF-1 are used for screening. If the doctor thinks you are producing too much/too little then suppression and stimulation tests may be ordered.

IGF-1 varies per year of age and sex of patient. Therefore the result range differs for every year of your life. If you have concerns about your IGF-1 test results then please consult your physician. A full list of ranges can be viewed here.


Anabolic steroid panel.

An anabolic steroid test panel may be ordered as an initial screen to determine if anti-aging treatment with bioidentical hormone replacement is needed, and to monitor safety during ongoing treatment.


Test name

Overview

Reference range
(Normal range)

Dihydrotestosterone

Dihydrotestosterone testing is used to monitor patients receiving chemotherapy or 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor therapy. It can also be used to evaluate patients with 5 alpha- reductase deficiency (a condition that affects male sexual development before birth and during puberty).

Males 30 -85 ng/dL
Females 4-22 ng/dL

Children differs per age. For a full list of children’s reference ranges click here.

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

A CBC measures the volume of blood cells that make up your blood highlighting issues such as infection, bleeding, certain diseases, or clotting problems. There are several different sub-tests within a CBC.

For a full list of CBC tests and the reference ranges click here.

Comprehensive Metabolic Profile

A comprehensive metabolic panel, also known as a chemistry panel, measures glucose levels, fluid and electrolyte balance, liver function, and kidney function.

For a full list of common comprehensive metabolic panel tests and the reference ranges click here.

Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)

PSA is a protein produced by the prostate gland. If it is elevated then it may be a sign of prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate, benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement of the prostate), or prostate cancer.

The normal level of PSA is still debated and it is considered difficult to state a ‘normal reference range’. However, PSA levels of 4.0 ng/mL or lower are usually considered normal.

Estradiol

Estradiol is a form of estrogen found in both women and men. In women it is involved with sexual organ development, bone metabolism, cholesterol metabolism, aspects of pregnancy, body weight, insulin sensitivity, and glucose metabolism. Although lower in men, estradiol plays an important role in sexual function.

Males 10-40 pg/mL

Females:
Premenopausal 15-350 pg/mL
Postmenopausal <10 pg/mL

Testosterone

Found in both men and women, testosterone is an important hormone that controls energy levels, muscle mass, sex drive, behaviour (aggression and competitiveness), and sperm production.

Males at least 300 ng/dL
Females over 19 years 8 to 60 ng/dL

Lipid Panel

A lipid panel measures the different types of triglycerides and cholesterol (fats) in the blood.

For a full list of lipid panel sub-tests click here.

Insulin Growth Factor (IGF-1)

See growth hormone section above.

See growth hormone section above.

Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)

SHBG is a protein produced in the liver that combines with testosterone, estradiol, or dihydrotestosterone to transport them around the body. If testosterone, estradiol, or dihydrotestosterone levels are normal, but symptoms of imbalance are being experienced, then this test may be ordered to help assess the problem.

Male < 50 years 15-64 nmol/L
Male > 50 years 14-78 nmol/L

Female < 50 years 19-145 nmol/L
Female > 50 years 14-136 nmol/L


Other hormone tests results.

There are a huge range of hormone tests available and below are some that have not already been discussed.


Test name

Overview

Reference range
(Normal range)

Cortisol

Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands that helps you manage stress, regulate blood sugar, regulate metabolism, fight infection, and maintain blood pressure. A disorder of your adrenal glands can make levels too high or too low.

Adults:
8am-12pm:  5-25 mcg/dL
8pm-8am:  0-10 mcg/dL

Elderly:
8am: 5-23 mcg/dL
4pm:  3-13 mcg/dL

Children: 1-16 years:
8am:  3-21 mcg/dL
4pm:  3-10 mcg/dL

Newborn:  1-24 mcg/dL

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)

The pituitary gland makes FSH which helps women to release eggs and men to produce sperm. Imbalances with FSH can cause infertility problems making it hard to get pregnant. It can also have an effect on puberty, periods, and sex drive.

Male:
Before puberty - 0 to 5.0 mIU/mL
During puberty - 0.3 to 10.0 mIU/mL
Adult - 1.5 to 12.4 mIU/mL

Female:
Before puberty - 0 to 4.0 mIU/mL
During puberty - 0.3 to 10.0 mIU/mL
Still menstruating - 4.7 to 21.5 mIU/mL
After menopause - 25.8 to 134.8 mIU/mL

Luteinizing Hormone (LH)

LH regulates the function of the testes (testicles) in men and ovaries in women. Imbalances in LH can result in fertility problems.

 

Progesterone

In women progesterone helps prepare your uterus for pregnancy, is part of breast development, and is part of breastfeeding. Low progesterone can cause problems such as mood swings, headaches, an irregular menstrual cycle, and weight gain. In men, progesterone is associated with sperm development.

Women:
Pre-ovulation < 0.89 ng/mL
Ovulation < 12 ng/mL
Post ovulation 1.8-24 ng/mL
1st trimester of pregnancy 11-44 ng/mL
2nd trimester of pregnancy 25-83 ng/mL

Men: 0.13-0.97 mg/mL

 

 

Prolactin

Prolactin is present in both men and women and can play a role in sexual satisfaction. In women, it helps produce milk after childbirth. Prolactin plays an important role in reproductive health for both men and women.

Males: < 25 ng/mL
Pregnant females: 34 to 386 ng/mL
Non-pregnant females: < 25 ng/mL

Thyroid

Thyroid hormones help your body to breakdown fat, and to regulate and use energy.

 


Anti-aging panels
can be carried out to determine if anti-aging treatment with bioidentical hormone replacement is required. For a full list of tests carried out in an anti-aging panel click for men and women.

Imbalanced hormones cause a range of symptoms that can have a negative effect on your day to day life, but there is no need to suffer alone. Through comprehensive hormone testing, you can work with your doctor to pinpoint hormone imbalances. Private MD Labs can provide you with confidential laboratory testing to help you take charge of your own health. You can order your lab tests by clicking here or call us on (877) 283-7882 for further information. By understanding your test results you can be proactive in your healthcare. However, even with a good understanding, hormone testing and test results can be confusing. Your doctor is there to explain your results and support you if you have any concerns or questions.

 

 

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