High estrogen levels are a serious problem for women of all ages. Its counterpart, low estrogen levels, can be just as significant; the two regularly go hand in hand with a period of high estrogen levels followed by a sudden drop. This is especially true for women who are going through menopause. In order to combat the symptoms of low estrogen levels, such as hot flashes and fatigue, it is important to understand their causes; these causes are predominantly hormonal. Keep reading to learn about the various causes of low estrogen levels, including both the hormonal and lifestyle-related triggers.
Understanding the Causes of Low Estrogen Levels
While certain conditions or environmental causes can lead to low estrogen levels in women, the primary cause of decreased estrogen is hormonal fluctuation.
The causes of low estrogen levels can be divided into three categories: natural, induced, and special cases. Each of these is explained in more detail below.
Natural Causes of Low Estrogen Levels
Estrogen is produced primarily in the ovaries, by the eggs. As a woman's body expends her eggs through the menstruation cycle, the total number decreases over time and leads to a corresponding decline in the secretion of estrogen. This continues until menstruation ceases and menopause begins. This decline in estrogen levels is predominantly what causes the host of menopausal symptoms that women experience during this time.
Low estrogen levels can also be caused by the ovaries' inability to produce estrogen. Furthermore, links have been made between low estrogen levels and the late onset of puberty in young girls, as well as delayed development and lack of menstruation (amenorrhea).
Menopause and low estrogen levels
Menopause is one of the main reasons that estrogen deficiency occurs in women. Perimenopause is the period prior to menopause when the ovaries' production of estrogen begins to slow down. Women experiencing perimenopause and postmenopause have found that supplemental estrogen provides the hormones needed to ensure physical and emotional well-being. During postmenopause, low levels of estrogen can increase the risk of conditions such as heart disease and osteoporosis.
Induced Causes of Low Estrogen Levels
Causes of Low Estrogen in Women
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Eating disorders
- Extreme exercise
- Pituitary diseases
Induced low estrogen levels can be caused by various procedures and treatments; however, the most common causes among women include hysterectomies and chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
A hysterectomy is one form of surgery that can result in low estrogen levels. A hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus and this can be partial, where the uterus is taken away but the ovaries remain, or a total hysterectomy. A total hysterectomy, which is also known as “surgical menopause”, is when the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries are removed and this disrupts ovarian hormone production.
Following a hysterectomy, a woman enters into surgically-induced menopause and experiences hormone imbalance, regardless of whether or not her ovaries remain. Typically, the ovaries stop working within 1-3 years after a hysterectomy procedure as blood flow to them ceases.
It's recommended that women who begin menopause due to hysterectomy should check their estrogen (estridiol), progesterone, and testosterone levels. Hysterectomies result in a shortage of vital hormones and, therefore, many women may want to utilize the available treatments to deal with this deficit.
Another cause of low estrogen levels in girls and women is radiation therapy or chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions. Many females find that after such treatments their ovaries do not function correctly. Yet, it is worth noting that every woman's experience is different and the performance of the ovaries depends upon the type of chemotherapy received and whether or not radiation was used on the ovaries.
Special Cases for Low Estrogen Levels
Conditions, including anorexia nervosa, can disturb the activity of hormones such as estrogen within the body. Although this condition is rare in women entering menopause, it is important to remember that a balanced diet and active lifestyle are key to maintaining hormonal balance.
For young women, in particular, the following conditions can each prompt low estrogen levels:
- Genetic diseases, such as Turner syndrome.
- Thyroid disorders
- Insufficient body fat
Other causes of low estrogen in women are related to the pituitary gland. In addition to eating disorders, extreme exercise and pituitary diseases can also result in insufficient estrogen levels. This is because such ailments lead to a miscommunication between the pituitary gland and the ovaries, with the pituitary gland failing to stimulate estrogen production in the ovaries, resulting in inadequate amounts being created.
Now that the causes of low estrogen levels have been explained, continue reading to better understand the symptoms of low estrogen level.