Estrogen is known as the female hormone and though it is also present in men, estrogen levels are significantly higher in females than men.
In women, proper estrogen levels perform a variety of different functions such as the formation of female characteristics like development of breasts, distribution of weight, etc.
Estrogen levels regulate not only growth, maintenance, and repair of reproductive tissues but also regulate bone and body tissue maintenance.
Estrogen levels being in balance mean that females start to display pubescent symptoms such as slowing down of height growth, growth of the endometrium and thickening of the uterus wall, increased vaginal lubrication, increase of bone formation etc.
Apart from these female functions, estrogen levels are responsible for a number of other functions in the body relating to protein synthesis, blood coagulation, fluid balance, lung function, melanin production etc.
Why and when do estrogen levels decline and rise?
In the natural course estrogen levels start to decline at the time of perimenopause, which is prior to actual onset of menopause; however several other conditions also lead to fluctuation or imbalance, such as hypopituitarism, hypogonadism, polycystic ovarian syndrome, pregnancy failure, extreme exercise or eating disorders.
Estrogen levels also fall after a woman has given birth or when she is breast feeding. Not only the ovaries, but also body fat produces estrogen and therefore very low body fat as found in athletes and individuals with eating disorders may find estrogen levels to be low.
As estrogen levels decline with menopause, the end of the reproductive phase of a woman’s life, so do they rise when puberty comes around. The development of breasts, appearance of pubic and underarm hair, more rounded hips with greater fat deposits around the hips and thighs area are also consistent with rising estrogen levels.
However, there are many problematic conditions that rising estrogen levels could be consistent with. Sometimes higher estrogen levels are observed when medical conditions such as the presence of tumors in certain organs. Certain medications are also responsible for such increase in estrogen levels.
Why should you be concerned about imbalance of estrogen levels?
Imbalance of estrogen levels could be the underlying cause for several problems or they may be a symptom of other underlying problems.
- Lower estrogen levels could mean lowered interest in sexual intercourse, decreased vaginal lubrication, bleeding during sex or painful intercourse
- Brittle nails, dry and course body hair, hair loss etc could also be due to lower estrogen levels
- Moodiness, irritability, anxiety, emotional ambivalence, memory loss, lowering of self esteem could also be caused by this.
- Excess estrogen can cause water retention, increase in breast size, thyroid problems etc
- Excess estrogen levels can also cause decreased interest in sex and lack of orgasm.
So really either excess or lower levels of estrogen could be counterproductive for the female body and it is important that optimum levels be maintained so that a number of different problems and medical conditions do not arise. If low or high levels of estrogen are suspected, it is important to have tests carried out to detect such imbalance.