Estrogen , a hormone produced by the ovaries, plays an important role in the female reproductive system.
Estrogen is considered a sex hormone because it regulates sexual development in women. It is also present in small amounts in men. Synthetic estrogen is sometimes prescribed to women with low levels, depending on the cause and effect of the low estrogen levels.
Estrogen is a hormone primarily responsible for the sexual development of girls when they reach puberty.
Other functions of estrogen include:
- Initiates changes in breast tissue during adolescence and during pregnancy.
- Helps regulate the menstrual cycle
- Helps regulate body weight helping to control metabolism.
- Participates in the development and growth of healthy bone tissue (prevents bone loss by promoting the absorption and maintenance of calcium levels)
- It plays a role in promoting the health of the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels) , according to the American Heart Association.
Causes of low estrogen levels
Several different conditions can cause a decrease in estrogen levels in women.
Some reasons include:
- Damage to or removal of the ovaries, such as a total hysterectomy, is a surgical procedure to remove the uterus and ovaries.
- Excessive exercise
- Thyroid gland conditions
- Pituitary gland dysfunction
- Anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders.
- Turner syndrome , a genetic defect in which a person has only one X chromosome instead of two sex chromosomes, causing developmental abnormalities and infertility.
- Genetic defects that cause premature ovarian failure.
- Autoimmune conditions
- Chronic kidney disease (long-term)
- Perimenopause , the time before menopause during which estrogen levels fluctuate.
- Menopause, which is defined as 12 consecutive months without menstruation with very low estrogen levels.
- The effects of chemotherapy
Age is the number one factor for low estrogen levels. As a woman approaches the age of 47, the perimenopausal age, she experiences fluctuations in estrogen levels for several years until full menopause.
A family history of hormonal problems is also a risk factor for low estrogen levels.
There are several effects of low estrogen levels; many of these effects mimic the symptoms of menopause.
Symptoms of low estrogen levels can include:
- Night sweats
- Amenorrhea (often missed periods)
- Tender breasts
- Worsening migraines
- Difficult to focus
- Weight gain
- Painful sex due to decreased vaginal lubrication.
- Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones that can lead to fractures.
- Violation of sexual development and sexual function.
If you have symptoms of low estrogen, your healthcare provider will most likely begin a diagnostic evaluation of your symptoms. The tests you choose will depend on your symptoms, risk factors, and other medical conditions.
Diagnoses can include:
- Family history to evaluate possible genetic causes of low estrogen levels
- Medical history and physical exam.
- Blood tests to check hormone levels.
- Evaluation of underlying causes, such as thyroid disease or pituitary disease.
- Brain scan
- DNA tests to evaluate genetic abnormalities of the endocrine system.
Supplementation with synthetic hormones, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a common treatment for low estrogen levels in women. And sometimes lifestyle or diet changes are recommended.
Natural remedies can include:
- keep a healthy weight
- Reduce physical activity if you exercise excessively
- Natural foods or supplements like soy
Note that the use of soy or soy isoflavones in low-estrogen settings is controversial, according to a 2010 Harvard Health report, which explains that soy may increase the risk of breast cancer. It is best to speak with your doctor before adding this or any supplement to your diet.
Your healthcare provider may choose to take several HRT regimens, including:
- Oral (inside)
- Topical (such as patches or creams)
- Subdermal (granules are injected under the skin)
The type of HRT therapy, the route of administration, and the dose prescribed depend on many factors. These include the underlying cause, severity, and symptoms of low estrogen levels.
Basic facts about HRT include:
- Not all women are eligible for estrogen treatment. It is contraindicated in people who have had medical conditions such as breast cancer , high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, or another type of blood clot.
- There are several types of THS available. Some people combine estrogen with progesterone , another female sex hormone.
- When treating menopausal symptoms, estrogen is usually given only after a hysterectomy, while estrogen and progesterone combinations are used for people with a uterus. Progesterone is necessary to protect the lining of the uterus from the cancerous changes that can occur with estrogen alone.
- High doses of estrogen can be given to women who are not in menopause and who have very low levels of estrogen, such as those who have had a hysterectomy, to prevent other hormonal imbalances, bone fractures, and heart disease.
- The doctor will generally prescribe the lowest effective dose of estrogen or estrogen / progesterone combination to reduce the risk of side effects.
- There are many side effects of HRT, including vaginal bleeding, leg cramps, headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, and more.
- The duration of HRT treatment depends on the individual situation of each person.
- A serious risk of HRT can include conditions such as blood clots or cancer.
Low estrogen levels can affect many aspects of overall health and well-being, including physical, emotional, and sexual health. They can also increase your risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and obesity.
Although hormone replacement therapy is the main treatment for low estrogen levels, it is not for everyone.
Treatment results for women with low estrogen levels vary.
Frequently asked questions
How often do women experience side effects from hormone replacement therapy?
About 5% to 10% of women have some common side effects with HRT treatment. These can include mood swings, headaches, fluid retention, stomach cramps, or bloating.
How serious are the side effects of hormone replacement therapy?
Most of the side effects of HRT are not serious. However, HRT can rarely cause serious side effects, such as double vision, depression, extreme weakness and fatigue, fever, and severe abdominal pain. If you experience these or any other disturbing or persistent symptoms, call your doctor immediately.
Get the word of drug information
If you experience symptoms of low estrogen levels, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Many experts say that early treatment of low estrogen results in better treatment results. A report from the Mayo Clinic says: "Some evidence also suggests that estrogen may reduce the risk of heart disease when taken early in the postmenopausal age." It is generally best to consult with your doctor to discuss what is best for your particular case.