Estrogens are a group of hormones that comprise estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). Each one of these hormones plays a significant and distinct role in the human body. In menstruating women, E2 is the most active hormone, and mainly produced by the ovaries. Contrary to popular belief, men also have low levels of estrogens, which are produced by the testes.
Estrogens play a crucial part in the development and function of secondary sexual characteristics, such as pubic hair and breast growth, an also in the regulation of the menstrual cycle.
Estradiol is the main estrogen that can be found in non-pregnant women who are in reproductive age.
Why Would You Need an Estradiol Test?
Your doctor may want to test your estradiol levels if:
– You are a man who is showing female characteristics, for instance, gynaecomastia (breast enlargement), or infertility.
– You are a woman with irregular menstrual periods, your sexual organs are not fully developed, you had precocious or delayed puberty, or you are infertile.
Other situations in which your doctor may evaluate your estradiol levels is if he or she suspects of an estrogen-producing tumour, if you are taking estrogen replacement therapy or anti-estrogen therapy, or to assess your bone mineral density and therefore your risk of fractures.
What Do the Results Mean?
Normal estradiol values can vary depending on the age and sex of the individual being tested. In women, it also depends upon their menstrual cycle and whether they are pregnant. You should keep in mind that this test alone cannot confirm a disease or condition, but rather guides your doctor towards a diagnosis.
– Males: normal levels of estrogens 10 to 40 pg/mL
– Premenopausal women: range from 15 to 350 pg/mL; depending on the day of their menstrual cycle
– Postmenopausal women: normally less than 10 pg/mL
- A heightened estradiol level could mean:
– In females: early puberty, hyperthyroidism, tumours of the ovary, tumours of the adrenal glands, cirrhosis, taking hormone pills
– In males: gynaecomastia (enlarged breasts), cirrhosis, delayed puberty, hyperthyroidism, testicular cancer, or tumours of the adrenal glands
- Low estrogen levels in women are seen in:
– Poorly functioning ovaries (hypogonadism)
– Turner syndrome (a genetic condition in women caused by a missing or abnormal X chromosome)
– Low levels of pituitary hormones
– PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
– Eating disorders
– After menopause
– Extreme exercise
How Can You Improve Your Estradiol Levels?
Abnormal estrogen levels should be further investigated and managed by a clinician. However there are things you can do to help balance your hormones naturally.
Some of the things you can do include:
– Maintain a normal weight
– Have routine daily exercise (avoid too strenuous types)
– Eat healthy, including plenty of vegetables and fruits in your diet. If levels are low, estrogen-rich foods include flaxseeds, beans, chickpeas, sesame seeds, bran, soybean products (tofu, edamame, soy milk), dried fruit, alfalfa sprouts, nuts, olives, and olive oil.
What Other Treatments are Available?
The first step is to diagnose and treat the cause of the estradiol levels imbalance. If that’s not possible, several preparations can be used to treat abnormally high or low estradiol levels. These include using estradiol as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), infertility treatment, or as a contraceptive in birth pills when its levels are too low. Drugs that reduce estrogen levels include ones that prevent estradiol production, that block the conversion of estrogens to estradiol or block the effects of estradiol.
In some cases, women can benefit from an oophorectomy (ovaries removal surgery), especially if they have been diagnosed with an estrogen-sensitive type of cancer, such as breast cancer. This surgery causes what is known as surgical menopause.
Is There Anything Else to Know About Estradiol?
Prolonged time with either decreased or heightened estradiol levels can cause health issues like infertility, osteoporosis, thrombosis, strokes, or estrogen-dependent cancer such as endometrial cancer or breast cancer.
An estradiol test cannot lead to a diagnosis on its own; other tests should also be performed to adequately assess any conditions or diseases that can cause an estrogen-related hormone imbalance.
See your doctor to help find the underlying cause of the hormone imbalance, so treatment can be started to avoid complications. For women going through menopause, it is no longer common practice to use hormone replacement as a prevention for hot flashes and other symptoms associated. This is because recent studies have linked long-term use of hormone replacement with increased risk of heart disease, strokes, blood clot, and breast cancer. See your doctor to assess and balance the needs versus the risks. It still remains the best treatment for menopausal symptoms.
If you’re interested in learning more about estradiol and the effects of abnormal levels, read on more about it in our biomarker post here!
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