What is estrogen?
Your body’s hormones are like a seesaw. When it’s perfectly balanced, your body works as it should. But when it is out of balance, it may start to have problems.
Estrogen is known as the “female” hormone. Testosterone is known as the “male” hormone. Although each hormone is determined based on a specific gender, both are found in women and men. On average, women have higher levels of estrogen and men have more testosterone.
In women, estrogen helps initiate sexual development. Along with another female sex hormone known as progesterone, it also regulates a woman’s menstrual cycle and affects her entire reproductive system. In premenopausal women, levels of estrogen and progesterone vary from one phase of the menstrual cycle to the next.
In men, estrogen also plays an important role in sexual function.
Reasons for high estrogen
High levels of estrogen can develop naturally, but too much estrogen can also result from taking certain medications. For example, estrogen replacement therapy, a common treatment for menopausal symptoms, may cause estrogen to reach problematic levels.
Your body may also develop low testosterone or low progesterone levels, which can upset the hormonal balance. If you have estrogen levels that are abnormally high in relation to your progesterone levels, this is known as estrogen dominance.
Symptoms of high estrogen levels in women
When the levels of estrogen and testosterone are not balanced in your body, you may start to develop certain symptoms. In women, possible symptoms include:
bulging and tenderness in your breasts
Fibrocystic lumps in your breasts
Decreased sex drive
Irregular menstrual periods
Increased symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Anxiety and panic attacks
Cold hands or feet
drowsiness or tiredness;
Symptoms of high estrogen levels in men
Although it is called the female hormone, the male body also produces estrogen. A healthy balance between estrogen and testosterone is important for sexual growth and development. When these hormones become imbalanced, your sexual development and function may be affected.
Symptoms of high estrogen in men include:
infertility. Estrogen is partly responsible for creating healthy sperm. When estrogen levels are high, sperm levels may drop and lead to fertility problems.
gynecomastia Estrogen may stimulate the growth of breast tissue. Men with too much estrogen may develop gynecomastia, a condition that causes the breasts to increase in size.
erectile dysfunction (ED). Men with high levels of estrogen may have difficulty getting or maintaining an erection.
Diagnosis of elevated estrogen levels
If your doctor suspects you may have elevated estrogen, he or she will likely order a blood test to check your hormone levels. A trained professional will collect a sample of your blood for testing in a laboratory. The results will indicate whether your estrogen levels are too low or too high. Serum estrogen levels are measured as pictograms per milliliter (pg/mL).
There are three types of estrogen: estradiol, estriol, and estrone. Estradiol is the primary female hormone. Estriol and estrone are minor female sex hormones. Estriol is almost undetectable in non-pregnant women.
Normal estrogen levels in women
According to Mayo Medical Laboratories, the following levels of estrone and estradiol are considered normal for women: