Estrogen is essential to a woman's physical and psychological well-being, affecting everything from appearance to reproductive ability. This hormone is produced in the ovaries and formed from a combination of the corpus luteum, or what remains of the follicle after ovulation, and developing egg follicles. Estrogen can also be produced by the breasts, liver, and adrenal glands, albeit in smaller concentrations which account for less than 10% of total production.
Estrogen's function within the female body is vast and complex; thus, an estrogen imbalance has the potential to affect women in a variety of ways. To learn more about the role and effects of estrogen, continue reading.
Role of Estrogen in the Female Body
Estrogen is known as the “chemical messenger” due to its ability to transmit messages between cells. Estrogen is fundamental to the formation of female sexual characteristics and reproductive function. It carries out a range of tasks for women that include:
- Promoting the formation of female sexual characteristics
- Helping to regulate the menstrual cycle
- Protecting against heart disease
- Accelerating metabolism
- Increasing uterine growth
- Preserving bone density
- Protecting against heart disease
- Preserving skin tension
As well as the physical effects, estrogen has also been shown to play a key role in women's mental health. Several recent studies have shown a direct correlation between estrogen levels and mood. Sudden estrogen withdrawal, estrogen fluctuations, or periods of sustained low estrogen levels can all contribute to a poor mood, particularly in menopausal women.
Effects of Estrogen in the Female Body
In addition to regulating the menstrual cycle, estrogen affects the reproductive tract, the urinary tract, the heart and blood vessels, bones, breasts, skin, hair, mucous membranes, pelvic muscles, and the brain.
The effects of the estrogen in each area of the body are:
- Brain. Estrogen helps to maintain body temperature. Estrogen may delay memory loss.
- Breast. Estrogen prepares the glands for future milk production.
- Heart and liver. Estrogen helps to regulate the liver's production of cholesterol, thus decreasing the build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries.
- Ovary. Estrogen stimulates the maturation of ovaries.
- Uterus. Estrogen stimulates the maturation of the uterus.
- Bone. Estrogen helps to preserve bone density.
- Vagina. Estrogen helps to maintain a lubricated and thick vaginal lining.
The Effects of Fluctuating Estrogen Levels
Normal estrogen levels are important as they control other key functions including: tissue function, sexual function, and mood. Also, normal estrogen levels are vital to the reproductive system and even more critical if a woman is trying to conceive. If normal estrogen levels fluctuate in any way, it can cause a variety of negative effects.
The Effects of High Estrogen Levels
Below are some of the most commonly experienced symptoms that may indicate abnormally high estrogen levels:
- Vaginal infection
- Panic attacks
- Low self esteem
In addition to the physical and psychological signs outlined above, high estrogen levels can lead to a host of side effects and more serious conditions. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Breast and uterine cancer
- Gallbladder disease
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Heart disease
The Effects of Low Estrogen Levels
When a woman has low estrogen levels, this impacts her physical and mental state. Examples of health problems triggered by estrogen deficiency include:
- Low back pain
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Joint pain
- Vaginal dryness
- Dry skin
- Loss of libido
- Thinning tissues
- Rapid heartbeat
- Thinning hair
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings
- Memory lapses
Low estrogen levels do not necessarily trigger the conditions listed above but they can indicate a lack of estrogen. Two of the most worrying side effects of low estrogen levels are an increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.
Now that the roles and effects of estrogen in the body have been explained, continue reading to better understand how to identify estrogen imbalance using estrogen tests.