Hormones which can be tested
The symptoms triggered by an estrogen imbalance not only include disrupted menstrual cycles, but they also include weight gain, mood swings, hair loss, anxiety, depression, and more.
Accordingly, estrogen tests are utilized in order to confirm the presence of hormonal disruption, and estrogen hormones which are tested include estradiol, estriol, and estrone.
Continue reading to find out more about common and advanced estrogen tests as well as why tests are important.
Common Estrogen Tests
A blood test is the most conventional method of detecting hormone imbalance, and it can measure estradiol, estriol, and estrone levels found in blood serum or blood plasma content.
Depending on a woman's age, results may vary. However, normal blood levels for estradiol (premenopausal) fluctuate between 30 to 400 pg/mL, and estradiol (postmenopausal) normally measures up to 30 pg/mL.
Due to the variations in estradiol levels during each menstrual cycle, it is suggested that samples only be taken during the early follicular phase during menstruation (Day 1 - 3 on a 28-day cycle) or during the luteal phase peak (Day 20 - 21 on a 28-day cycle).
This will eliminate any major fluxes in estrogen levels which may occur at other times, such as during ovulation. Also, abnormal hormone levels will be clearly separated.
For pregnant women, specifically, a rise in estriol begins at 6 - 10 weeks of gestation when the fetal adrenal gland secretion begins. Therefore, blood levels are measured during the 15th to 20th week of gestation. Concentrations will plateau at 31 - 35 weeks only to increase again at 35 - 36 weeks. Results vary from woman to woman, but normal estriol ranges fluctuate between 31 to 460 ng/mL at term.
Unlike blood tests, urine tests are most commonly only used to measure the level of estriol in pregnant women.
Furthermore, urine tests should be taken the same time as blood tests during a woman's cycle in order to avoid major fluctuations in the results.
However, many scientists believe that using a urine test is not completely conclusive because it is not a direct measure of bioavailable hormones, which directly affect the body. Urine tests measure hormone metabolites - or byproducts - that have been excreted. Hormone levels in urine can also be affected by variables such as diet, kidney function, drug use, etc.
Advanced Estrogen Tests
Many researchers argue that saliva tests are more useful than blood serum tests because they measure bioavailable hormones delivered to the receptors in body tissues.
This distinction is important when monitoring fluctuations of estrogen with topical hormone therapy, such as topical therapies - like creams - used in HRT.
Just as with blood and urine levels, estrogen levels measured with saliva should fall within the aforementioned ranges. It is useful in not only measuring hormone levels and ratios, but also assessing hormonal risk factors for diseases that are hormone dependent, such as breast or uterine cancer.
Critics point out that saliva tests are more 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 - aside from HRT - and contraceptive pills can also have an effect on the results of saliva tests.
Likewise, saliva tests are popular for those who wish to self-test from home. However, results from self-tests are strongly recommended to be discussed with a doctor. Healthcare professionals can confirm a hormonal imbalance and identify any medical conditions.
Why are Estrogen Tests Important?
In general, estrogen tests are used to help investigate menstrual abnormalities, such as unusual vaginal bleeding, infertility, and amenorrhea.
During puberty, testing for estradiol levels in young girls can help diagnose the reason why a girl develops secondary sex characteristics sooner than expected, which is known as early-onset puberty. An estradiol tests can help diagnose the opposite as well, which is known as delayed puberty. Delayed puberty is when a girl shows late development of secondary sex characteristics or displays a late start to menstruation.
During pregnancy, an estriol test assesses the probability of potential genetic disorders, and decreased levels have been associated with conditions such as Down syndrome, neural tube defects, and adrenal abnormalities. These blood tests are recommended for women with a family history of birth defects; are 35 and older; have used possibly harmful medications or drugs; or had a viral infection during pregnancy.
During the menopause transition, an estrone test is often performed after a woman has experienced symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, and irregular - or lack of - periods. Moreover, if a woman is undergoing HRT, estrone tests may be ordered to help monitor treatment effectiveness.
Now that the most common estrogen tests have been explained, continue reading to find out about different estrogen levels and what they mean.
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