Why estrogen is important
Estrogen is an important hormone. While there are small amounts of estrogen in your body, the hormone plays a large role in women’s health.
The estrogen hormone is responsible for:
- Puberty and sexual development in girls
- Controls the uterine lining during the menstrual cycle and pregnancy
- Involved in bone and cholesterol metabolism
- Helps regulate body weight, insulin sensitivity, glucose metabolism, and food intake
Estrogen affects women of all ages – typically as it increases and levels rise in young women and those who are pregnant. However, as women are on the end of menopause and enter postmenopause, estrogen levels drop.
Postmenopause is the time after a woman has been without a menstrual cycle for over 12 months.
Symptoms of Low Estrogen
You might think that because you’re on the other side of menopause that you’re out of the woods and won’t deal with any of the irritating symptoms that accompany menopause. However, women of all ages can experience low estrogen.
Common symptoms include:
- Painful sex
- Irregular periods
- Increased risk of UTIs
- Brain fog
- Trouble concentrating
- Mood swings
Because estrogen works together with calcium and vitamin D, you may experience a decrease in bone density or even an increased likelihood of breaking bones.
Causes of Low Estrogen
Estrogen is produced in the ovaries. Any condition that affects the ovaries can result in a reduction of estrogen. It can be caused by any number of the following factors:
- Eating disorders
- Malfunctioning pituitary gland
- Autoimmune disorders, which can cause ovarian failure
- Excessive exercise
- Kidney disease
In women who are in perimenopause, your ovaries are still producing estrogen, although production slows down until you reach menopause.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you are experiencing symptoms of low estrogen, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Early diagnosis can help prevent complications and additional health concerns. Along with a physical exam and family history, a blood test is likely needed to accurately measure your hormone levels.
Testing the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) that is produced in your pituitary gland may also be used to determine the level of those sexual development hormones in your bloodstream. This is especially likely if you are having hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, and frequently missing periods. This could indicate an issue with the endocrine system.
Women with low levels of estrogen can be treated with hormonal treatments. There are non-hormonal options to reduce symptoms and are preferred in women who are at a higher risk for breast cancer, blood clots, or liver disease.
For women between the ages of 25 and 50 who have an estrogen deficiency, they are typically prescribed estrogen. This is a low-dose estrogen that can be administered orally, topically, vaginally, or via injection. This type of therapy can reduce menopausal symptoms and help increase bone density. It is only recommended for 1 to 2 years – a short-term treatment method.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
HRT helps increase your body’s natural hormone level. If you are near menopause, your doctor may suggest HRT to get estrogen and progesterone levels back to normal. Like estrogen therapy, it can be administered topically, orally, vaginally, or by injection. HRT can be adjusted in dosage, length, and even the combination of hormones, depending on the woman’s diagnosis.
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