As women approach menopause, their bodies produce less estrogen. Estrogen levels decline even further after they reach menopause. Since estrogen is an important female sex hormone that plays a crucial role in several bodily functions, a drop in levels can have some undesirable effects. Menopause is not the only cause of low estrogen. Hormonal shifts can also occur during ovulation and menstruation or during pregnancy. An underlying health condition can also cause hormonal imbalance. Fleur Women’s Health in Rancho Mirage, CA offers hormone replacement therapy to treat these imbalances.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy helps to boost the level of hormones in the body. Typically, hormone replacement therapy focuses on helping women with low levels of estrogen. It offers them relief from the negative physical and mental effects of low estrogen. It also helps to treat the symptoms associated with low estrogen and prevent further complications.
Why Is Estrogen Important?
Although estrogen is commonly associated with women, men also produce estrogen, albeit in smaller amounts. Estrogen is vital in several body processes. It:
- Promotes the sexual development of girls in puberty
- Is responsible for breast changes in teenage girls and pregnant women
- Plays an important role in cholesterol and bone metabolism
- Controls body weight, glucose metabolism, food intake, and insulin sensitivity
- Regulates growth of the uterine lining at the beginning of a pregnancy and during the menstrual cycle
Symptoms of Low Estrogen
Irregular or Absent Periods
For most women, the menstrual cycle lasts between 21 and 35 days. However, 1 in every 4 women experience irregular periods. Irregular periods are periods that are longer or shorter than usual or periods that are heavier or lighter than usual. Sometimes irregular periods prevent ovulation or cause abdominal cramping. Hormonal imbalance can cause:
- Amenorrhea – Absence of menstruation for at least 3 consecutive menstrual periods
- Menorrhagia – Prolonged or abnormally heavy bleeding
- Dysmenorrhea – Pain and cramping during menstruation
- Oligomenorrhea – Infrequent periods or a routine of going more than 35 days without menstrual periods
Hormonal imbalance can also cause prolonged periods that last more than 7 days.
A drop in estrogen levels during perimenopause and after menopause can cause vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness makes sex uncomfortable and unenjoyable for most women. Low estrogen levels also make vaginal walls thinner, turning sex into a painful experience.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
When hot flashes occur, you experience a sudden feeling of warmth, especially on your face and neck. Hot flashes can cause reddening and flushing of the skin around the face, neck, chest, arms, and back. Depending on their intensity, hot flashes can be accompanied by sweating and/or chills. Hot flashes that occur at night are known as night sweats.
Hot flashes can last between 30 seconds to 10 minutes. When left untreated, hot flashes can last up to 10 years. However, around 80% of women stop experiencing hot flashes after 5 years. Night sweats can lower the quality of your sleep and interfere with your general wellbeing.
When estrogen levels drop, you might feel fatigued even after having enough sleep and rest. You feel tired, and you may have a constant urge to lie down despite not engaging in a tiresome activity. You might also notice that you are no longer interested in physical activities that you previously enjoyed. You suddenly feel too tired for swimming, cycling, jogging, or even a routine walk. This is because a drop in estrogen levels is often accompanied by a decline in energy levels.
Frequent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Generally, some women are more vulnerable to urinary tract infections than others. However, low levels of estrogen increase your susceptibility to UTIs. When estrogen levels drop, the linings of your urethra become thinner, allowing unhealthy bacteria into the urinary tract. Besides increasing your risk of developing UTIs, low estrogen can also cause other urinary tract changes, leading to complications, such as urinary incontinence.
Estrogen plays a vital role in several mental functions. It helps boost the production of serotonin: a chemical found in the brain that enhances moods. Therefore, when estrogen levels drop, the production of serotonin decreases, causing mood swings and depression. This can have a negative impact on your mental health. It can also increase your irritability, making it difficult to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships.
Women experience headaches and migraines more regularly than men. Although the reason behind this difference is not apparent, many health professionals believe low estrogen is to blame. Many women report that they get more headaches or severe migraines right before their periods start. This is when women have the lowest level of estrogen in the entire cycle.
Although other factors may lower your concentration, it is common for women in perimenopause and menopause to complain about brain fog. They experience more memory problems and have a problem concentrating on complex and involving tasks. Health experts link the loss of concentration and memory problems to low estrogen levels. Additionally, brain fog can be caused by other symptoms of low estrogen, such as hot flashes, depression, and sleep problems.
Some women experience mood changes when estrogen levels drop. In an attempt to feel better, some turn towards binge eating foods high in calories, salt, and sugar. Additionally, low estrogen interferes with leptin, a hormone responsible for inhibiting hunger. Satisfying these false cravings that are triggered by low estrogen can lead to more problems. Salt causes bloating and increases water retention, while excess sugar and excess calories lead to unhealthy weight gain.
Exacerbation of Mental Disorders
According to scientific research, estrogen plays a role in protecting the health of the brain. It has a positive effect on neurotransmitters, cognitive abilities, and the brain’s ability to withstand stress. Studies show that a drop in estrogen levels is linked to an increased risk of psychosis. As women approach menopause, they become vulnerable to a second peak of schizophrenia. Boosting estrogen levels reduces the frequency of manic episodes in women suffering from bipolar disorder.
Menopause exposes women to obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that interferes with your sleep and general wellbeing. When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, you repeatedly stop breathing while asleep. People who develop sleep apnea are likely to have a snoring problem. Women with low estrogen levels associated with perimenopause and post-menopause are more susceptible to developing obstructive sleep apnea than women with higher estrogen levels.
Reduced Bone Mass
Estrogen is vital in building and maintaining healthy bones. Therefore, when estrogen levels drop, women become more vulnerable to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a medical condition that affects the bones, making them weak and brittle. Data shows that around half of all women aged 50 and above will suffer from a bone fracture because of osteoporosis. Asian and Caucasian women are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis compared to women from other ethnic groups.
Changes in Weight Distribution
After menopause, women with low estrogen levels might experience some weight gain around the abdomen and arms. This is also known as central obesity. Central obesity makes women more susceptible to cardiovascular disease. Research shows that women who go for hormone replacement therapy do not suffer from central obesity.
Trouble Getting Pregnant
Estrogen is responsible for making the uterine lining thick enough for the baby to grow. Therefore, when estrogen levels drop, one might find it difficult to get pregnant. Additionally, since low estrogen can prevent ovulation, it makes getting pregnant difficult. Without ovulation, there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize, leading to infertility.
Besides drying out your vagina, low estrogen can also dry out your eyes. Estrogen plays a role in the production of tears. Therefore when the body is not producing enough estrogen, your eyes are some of the body parts that pay the price. Parched eyes are a symptom of low estrogen.
Causes of Low Estrogen
Since ovaries are the primary producers of estrogen, any condition that affects them affects the production of estrogen. Causes of low estrogen in young women include:
- Excessive exercise
- Anorexia and other eating disorders
- Turner syndrome
- A low-functioning pituitary gland
- Chronic kidney disease
- Premature ovarian failure caused by toxins, genetic disorder, or an autoimmune condition
For women aged 40 and above, low estrogen levels are a sign they are approaching menopause. This transition period is known as perimenopause. Production of estrogen decreases gradually during perimenopause and stops when you reach menopause.
Risk Factors for Low Estrogen
- Eating disorders
- Family history of hormonal problems
- pituitary gland issues
- Excessive exercising
- Extreme dieting
Diagnosis of Low Estrogen
Detecting and treating low estrogen prevents several health conditions. If you notice any signs of low estrogen, schedule a consultation with a doctor. Early diagnosis helps in preventing further complications caused by low estrogen.
Besides assessing your symptoms, the doctor will also review your family health history to determine the cause of low estrogen. The doctor will also carry out a physical exam. They will order a blood test to measure your hormone levels. Further test may be carried out to test your estradiol and estrone levels if you are experiencing the following symptoms:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
Additionally, the doctor might order a brain scan or DNA testing to check for any problems with the endocrine system.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy boosts your body’s natural hormone levels. It reverses the drop in estrogen levels caused by menopause and other conditions. Hormone replacement therapy is administered in several ways, including:
- Oral medication
A consultation with the doctor will help you decided the best application method for you, depending on your lifestyle and unique experiences. Different women choose different ways. Hormone replacement therapy treatments can be adjusted in length and dosages to match the specific needs of every patient. Treatments have minimal recovery time, meaning you can resume normal activities almost immediately.
Feel Like Yourself Again
Estrogen plays an essential role in your general health. Aging, genetic defects, a family history of hormonal problems, and certain medications and health conditions can lower your estrogen levels. A drop in estrogen levels can negatively affect sexual function and sexual development. Low estrogen also makes you more susceptible to osteoporosis, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Fortunately, there are safe and effective methods to boost estrogen levels. The cause of your low estrogen levels and personal preferences will guide the dosage and duration of treatment. Do not allow low estrogen levels to interfere with your physical and mental health. For hormone replacement therapy, contact Fleur Women’s Health in Rancho Mirage, CA!