Estrogen is the general term used to describe the female sex hormones collectively; this includes estradiol, estrone, and estriol. Estrogen plays a central role in nourishing and protecting the body, exerting influence over cholesterol levels and osteal, cardiac, dermal, and neural health. It also aids in the production and secretion of other vital hormones.
It's important to maintain stable estrogen levels throughout life, but this is particularly essential during menopause. A surplus or deficit of estrogen can cause unpleasant menopausal symptoms, as well as negatively affect a woman's general state of health and well-being. Estrogen deficiency reveals itself in various forms, including vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and irregular menstrual periods.
Read on to learn more about problems attributed to estrogen deficiency.
What Is Estrogen Deficiency?
Estrogen deficiency is a lack of estrogen that has adverse effects on the female body. Insufficient levels of estrogen are primarily caused by normal hormonal fluctuations, most commonly during the menopausal transition. However, other triggers of estrogen deficiency include hysterectomy and radiation therapy or chemotherapy, eating disorders, insufficient body fat, thyroid disorders, extreme exercise, and pituitary diseases.
Estrogen Deficiency Tests
A simple estrogen test is the best way of determining whether or not a woman is experiencing a deficiency. Some doctors may test for a particular type of estrogen; estradiol is the most common, but estriol and estrone can also be assessed. However, tests for estriol and estrone are less common when trying to identify problems associated with estrogen deficiency during menopause.
Saliva tests can also be carried out to diagnose estrogen deficiency, but are easily affected by environmental factors such as what the patient has been eating or drinking and whether or not she smokes. Thus, these tests are deemed less reliable than others. Medication and hormone treatments such as hormone replacement therapy(HRT) and contraceptive pills can also have an effect on the results of saliva tests.
Due to variations in the amount of estrogen present in the body during menstruation, it is suggested that samples only be taken on the third day of a woman's cycle. This is recommended to avoid any major fluxes in estrogen levels that may occur at other times, for instance, during ovulation.
Testing for menopause allows women to take control of their health and educate themselves about the menopausal transition.
Estrogen Deficiency Symptoms
Estrogen deficiency is often a direct result of menopause. Therefore, women can experience a host of symptoms including night sweats, irregular menstrual periods, dizziness, and mood swings. The group of physical and psychological symptoms commonly experienced in the menopausal phase is due to an estrogen deficiency. However, these symptoms often come before menopause and they can also be a result of relative estrogen deficiency, as well as fluctuating levels of ovarian hormones.
Symptoms of estrogen deficiency include:
- Hot flashes
- Rapid heart rate
- Dry skin
- Vaginal dryness
- Poor memory
- Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness
- Loss of libido
- Weight gain
- Lower back pain