When the body does not produce enough estrogen, a variety of both physical and mental symptoms can occur. A woman’s overall health may decline in several key areas due to low estrogen. Estrogen is a vital chemical substance for women. Hormones influence almost every cell, organ, and function. Estrogen is not one hormone, but rather the name for a group of chemically similar hormones. Estrogen is linked not only the breasts and uterus but also the brain, bone, liver, heart and other tissues.
Why is Estrogen Important?
Estrogens are one of the most important hormones for a female. While it is present only in small amounts in the body, it plays a vital role in your maintaining your health. Men also produce estrogen, but women produce it at higher levels. Even men can suffer from estrogen deficiency. Men who have an estrogen deficiency are known to have increased body fat. Estrogen is responsible for or regulates:
- Food intake, body weight, glucose metabolism, and hormone sensitivity
- Prevents bone loss
- Prevents additional ovulation during pregnancy
- Can help to prevent urinary tract infections
- Is involved in cholesterol metabolism
What Causes Low Estrogen?
A variety of things can cause low estrogen. The main source of estrogen is in the ovaries, so anything which affects the ovaries will affect estrogen levels. Young women and women over the age of 40 have different causes of low estrogen in most cases.Younger women often experience decreased estrogen due to:* Too much exercise * Pituitary gland issues * Kidney disease * Eating disorders * Ovarian failure * Turner syndromeIn women age 40 and over, low estrogen could point towards the start of menopause. This is completely natural, yet poses health issues for any woman. This phase of life is called perimenopause.
What Are The Symptoms of Low Estrogen?
While women of all ages can develop an estrogen deficiency, it tends to affect most often girls who haven’t reached puberty and women approaching or at menopause. Some signs of an estrogen deficiency include:
- Delayed puberty
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Headaches or intense migraines
- Hot flashes
- Night Sweats
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings
- Vaginal dryness
- An increase in urinary tract infections
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Hot flashes are one of the most obvious symptoms of low estrogen. A hot flash is generally described as a sudden onset of body warmth from a non-external source. However, a hot flash can also develop over a period of several minutes as well.Hot flashes can include sweating, usually in the upper-body area, as well as flushing of the skin in both the upper body and head. Some woman may experience a tingling sensation, heart palpitations, and anxiety. Women with symptoms of low estrogen can experience hot flashes once or even several times a day.Night sweats are hot flashes that occur in the evening. Generally, night sweats affect the head and upper body area as well, resulting in damp hair, pillow covers, sheets, and even sleepwear. Night sweats can disturb a woman’s sleep cycle, which in turn can make her feel fatigued from inadequate sleep.
Irregular or Absent Menstrual Cycles
Because estrogen plays such a pivotal role in sexual reproduction for women, low estrogen can interrupt or cause irregular menstrual cycles. Estrogen controls the growth of the uterine lining during the early part of a woman’s cycle to prepare for pregnancy. When a woman’s egg is not fertilized, the body reduces the amount of estrogen, which in turn causes menstruation to begin. If a woman suffers from low estrogen, the menstrual cycle can be disrupted, causing irregular periods or even missed periods. If a woman misses her period for three or more months, this is known as secondary amenorrhea.
Low Estrogen Levels and Weight Gain
Estrogen has a direct impact on the amount of fat stored in the body. This is because your estrogen regulates your glucose and lipid metabolism. When your estrogen levels sink too low, you can experience weight gain. Women who are approaching menopause are more likely to put on excess weight. If you suspect your estrogen levels are adding to any weight problems you may have you should consult with your doctor.
Low Estrogen Levels and Osteoporosis
A decrease in estrogen levels can lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease that weakens bones. If you have this disease you can suffer from sudden fractures in your bones. The disease makes your bones rather porous, and more easily susceptible to fractures and breakage. This disease can progress for a long time without any symptoms. Approximately 80 percent of all people with osteoporosis are women. Low estrogen levels can lead to increased bone decay and osteoporosis.
How is low estrogen diagnosed?
Diagnosing low estrogen starts with you. If you have experienced any of the symptoms listed in this article, it is time to talk to your doctor. Only your doctor can diagnose low estrogen. Blood tests can be performed to test your hormone levels. If you are experiencing hot flashes, night sweats, missed periods or insomnia, it is worth asking your doctor to be tested for low estrogen.
Low Estrogen Treatments
Treatment for low estrogen often involves hormonal treatment. If you are aged 25 to 50, you likely get a prescription for a high dose of estrogen to replace the lost estrogen and correct your hormonal imbalance. The size of the dose will depend on the severity of the disease as well as the method of application. Hormone therapy can be done be via pills, topical applications, injections or vaginally. Long-term treatment may be required but does tend to be lowered with long-term treatment. Long-term treatment is often for women approaching or in menopause. In most cases, estrogen therapy is for only one to two years due to the increased risk of cancer that this therapy poses.
Outlook For Treatment
Treatments today for low estrogen are much more effective then they were in the last decade. We now understand a lot more about hormonal imbalances, and science has made great strides in new medicines to treat this condition. Treatments today are highly effective, provided that you follow your treatment plan and follow up on any of your doctor’s instructions.