Why is your estrogen level important?
Estrogen is a hormone. Even though it is present in small amounts in the body, hormones play a big role in maintaining your health.
Estrogen is often associated with the female body. Men are also producing estrogen, but women produce it more.
The hormone estrogen:
- Regulates body weight, glucose metabolism, insulin sensitivity and food intake
- Is responsible for the sexual development of girls when they reach puberty
- Is involved in bone and cholesterol metabolism
- Controls the growth of the uterine lining at the beginning of a pregnancy and during the menstrual cycle
- Causes breast changes in teenagers and pregnant women
What are the symptoms of low estrogen levels?
Girls who have not yet reached puberty and women who are approaching menopause have higher chances to suffer from low levels of estrogen. Nevertheless, low levels of estrogen can be developed by all women.
Some common symptoms of low estrogen levels are:
- Changes in mood
- Difficulties in concentrating
- Painful sex due to a lack of vaginal lubrication
- Hot flashes
- Tenderness of the breasts
- Headaches or accentuation of pre-existing migraines
- An increase in urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to a thinning of the urethra
- Irregular or absent periods
Your bones may be also prone to break or fracture more easily. A decrease in bone density may be causing this to happen. Estrogen works in conjunction with vitamin D, calcium and other minerals to keep bones strong. If your estrogen level is low, you may notice decreased bone density.
If left untreated, a low estrogen level in women can lead to infertility.
What causes a low estrogen level?
Estrogen is mainly produced in the ovaries. Everything that affects the ovaries ultimately affects the production of estrogen.
Young women can experience low levels of estrogen because of:
- Turner syndrome
- Eating disorders like anorexia
- Excessive exercise
- Chronic kidney disease
- A low-functioning pituitary gland
- Premature ovarian failure which results from toxins, genetic defects or an autoimmune condition
In women over 40, low estrogen levels may be a sign of approaching menopause. This transitional period is called perimenopause.
Your ovaries will still produce estrogen during perimenopause. Production will continue to slow down until you reach menopause. If you stop producing estrogen, you have reached menopause.
Low estrogen risk factors
Some common risk factors for low estrogen levels are:
- Eating disorders
- Issues with your pituitary gland
- Extreme dieting
- Family history of hormonal issues like ovarian cyst
- Age, since your ovaries produce less estrogen over time
- Excessive exercising
How is low estrogen diagnosed?
A diagnosis of low estrogen and treatment can prevent many health problems from happening.
Consult your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of low estrogen. They can assess your symptoms and make a diagnosis if necessary. Early diagnosis can help in preventing further complications.
During your appointment, your doctor will assess your symptoms and discuss your family health history. They’ll also perform a physical exam. Blood tests may also be necessary to measure your hormone levels.
Your estradiol and estrone levels may also be tested if you’re experiencing:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Frequently missed periods (amenorrhea)
Your doctor may also order a brain scan to check for any abnormalities that may affect the endocrine system. DNA testing may also be used to see if you have problems you’re your endocrine system.
How to treat low estrogen levels?
Women with low estrogen levels can benefit from hormone treatment.
Women between the ages of 25 and 50 with estrogen deficiency are generally prescribed a high dose of estrogen. This can reduce the risk of hormonal imbalances, like cardiovascular disease and bone loss.
The actual dose depends on how severe the condition is and the method of application Estrogen can be administered:
- Via injection
Sometimes, long-term treatment may be required, even after your estrogen levels have returned to normal. This may require lower doses of estrogen administered over time to maintain your current level.
Estrogen therapy can also reduce the risk of fractures and the severity of menopausal symptoms.
Long-term estrogen therapy is recommended primarily for women who are approaching menopause and also had a hysterectomy. In all other cases, estrogen therapy is only recommended for one to two years. This is because estrogen therapy can increase the risk of cancer.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
HRT is used to increase the natural hormone levels of your body. If you’re approaching menopause your doctor may recommend HRT. During menopause, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop significantly. HRT can help these levels to return to normal.
In this therapy, hormones can be administered:
- Via injection
HRT treatments can be adjusted in length, dosage and the combination of hormones. For example, depending on the diagnosis progesterone is often used in conjunction with estrogen.
Women approaching menopause and undergoing HRT may be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. It has also been shown that the treatment increases your risk of breast cancer, stroke and blood clotting.
Is there a connection between low estrogen levels and weight gain?
Estrogen and other sex hormones affect the amount of fat in the body. Estrogen regulates lipid metabolism and glucose. You may be gaining weight if your estrogen levels are low.
Research indicates that women approaching menopause are more likely to become overweight. Being overweight can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.
You should consult your doctor if your estrogen levels are low and your weight is affected. They can assess your symptoms and advise you what to do next. It is always a good idea to exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet. Talk to your doctor about developing a suitable diet and exercise plan.
Hormones like estrogen are crucial for your overall health. Certain diseases, a family history of hormone imbalances and genetic defects can lead to a drop in your estrogen level.
Low levels of estrogen can interfere with sexual functions and development. You can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and obesity.
The treatments have evolved over the years and become more effective. Your individual reason for a low estrogen level determines your specific treatment as well as the duration and dosage.
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