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What Is a Hormone Test?

During menopause, a woman's levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone plummet.
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  • Written By: Josie Myers
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2014
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A hormone test can be used by a man or a woman to determine the levels of some key hormones in his or her body. The test can be administered by a doctor in an office or through a home saliva test kit. It is generally used by those experiencing symptoms associated with a hormonal imbalance or a phenomenon like menopause.

There is a debate among the medical community about whether a saliva test is an accurate way to test hormone levels. Some claim that it tests the "active" hormone levels, or those that pulse through the body on a regular basis, better than a blood test. Those on the other side of the argument point out that 95% of the hormones in the body are bound, meaning that they are inactive, but are still important to know about. A saliva test will only test the 5% of hormones that are actually active.

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Females with hormone levels outside of the normal range may find themselves feeling moody, experiencing weight gains or other bodily changes and menstruation becoming irregular. This can be attributed to menopause or perimenopause, but can also be due to a hormonal imbalance not associated with either condition. Males who fall outside of the normal ranges may find themselves in one of two states of mind. Low levels of testosterone, sometimes called male menopause, can cause a lack of sex drive and impotence, while high levels can cause him to be overly aggressive with thoughts and actions often turning to sex.

The most complicated female hormone test will check for the levels of follicle-stimlating hormone (FSH), progesterone, estradiol, estrone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) and testosterone. A home hormone test is most likely to test only for FSH and estrogen. The normal range for FSH is 3-20 mlU/ml, while a reading above 30-40 indicates that menopause may have set in. A normal estrogen range is 25-75 mlU/ml, with a reading below 30 in combination with a high FSH reading would indicate menopause.

A complicated male hormone test will check levels of testosterone, androstenedione, estradiol, FSH, progesterone and DHEA-S. A basic hormone test checks levels of FSH and testosterone. The normal level of FSH for an adult male is 1.5 – 18.0 mlU/mL, while the normal range for testosterone is 241-827 nanograms/dL. Much like women, a high FSH reading indicates possible male menopause, a fact exacerbated when combined with low testosterone readings.

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