Opinions in Healthcare

Side Effects of Hormones

If you are familiar with Precision Compounding Pharmacy, you may have heard of – or perhaps were even prescribed – bio-identical hormones, extracted to be an exact chemical match to the body’s naturally-made hormones. Several of the most notable bio-identical hormones are known as testosterone, estrogens, progesterone, pregnenolone, DHEA, and oxytocin. While it is truly an incredible feat to compound these hormones in order to provide individualized care for our patients, it is crucial to be aware of their side effects as well, considering that the safety of our patients is of utmost priority. If you, or someone you know, currently take a medication composed of these bio-hormones, here are some side effects to keep an eye out for!

Testosterone, known for being the male sex hormone, plays a large role in increasing sex drive as well as energy levels for women who struggle with low libido and fatigue. Common side effects that may be experienced include acne and mood changes. If applied topically, testosterone may also cause irritation or hair growth at the site of application. A precursor to testosterone that has been observed to improve stress levels, called DHEA, may share similar side effects such as acne and oily skin. Estrogens, commonly prescribed as estriol and estradiol, are known for being the female sex hormone, which have been observed to alleviate hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and painful intercourse. Some side effects include bloating, breast tenderness, vaginal bleeding (“spotting”), and swelling. It is imperative to note that if the swelling is painful and occurs in the extremities, contacting your doctor immediately is the first step to take. Progesterone, another female hormone that is used to balance out estrogen-dominant symptoms, is also included in the treatment of insomnia, depression, and hot flashes. Some side effects of progesterone may be characterized by tiredness, nausea, and headaches. Pregnenolone is the precursor to the aforementioned hormones, with observed activity in enhancing memory and improving cognitive function, subsequently reducing brain fog. Its side effects may include drowsiness, agitation, and problems with sleeping. Oxytocin, known as the “love hormone,” plays a role in treating depression and anxiety, with common side effects being nausea and upset stomach.

Restoring the body’s natural hormones is the mission of bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, a measure taken usually when one is entering menopause, or when they are experiencing hypogonadism. During this period, there is an imbalance, due to a natural decrease in the production of hormones, which is where this therapy comes in to re-establish balance and returning levels to within normal range. The side effects of these bio-identical hormones are often limited, and may resolve within a few weeks. However, if these side effects persist or are too bothersome, do not hesitate to consult your pharmacist or your doctor in order to take the next steps in figuring out how to keep your personalized therapy optimized while also reducing the side effects as much as possible.

Envy Cervantes, PharmD Candidate ‘23