Female hormones produced by the ovaries called estrogens. Estrogen is one of the main sex hormones in the body. It is mainly produced by the ovaries, but can be produced in men and women by other tissues like fat tissue, the brain and the reproductive organs. There are receptors for estrogen on almost every cell tissue in the body from the bone to the brain. There are three different types of estrogen – estrone, estradiol and estriol. Each form of estrogen has slightly different effect on the same tissue. Estrone, estradiol and estriol together are known as the estrogenic hormones. Their balanced production is vital to a woman’s long-term and reproductive health.
Estradiol is the most commonly measured type of estrogen for non-pregnant women. The amount of estradiol in a woman’s blood varies throughout her menstrual cycle. After menopause, estradiol production drops to a very low but constant level.
Estriol levels usually are only measured during pregnancy. Estriol is produced in large amounts by the placenta, the tissue that links the fetus to the mother. It can be detected as early as the 9th week of pregnancy, and its levels increase until delivery. Estriol can also be measured in urine.
Estrone may be measured in women who have gone through menopause to determine their estrogen levels. It also may be measured in men or women who might have cancer of the ovaries, testicles, or adrenal glands.
ESTROGENS in WOMEN HEALTH
Estrogen is produced primarily by developing follicles in the ovaries, the corpus luteum, and the placenta. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) stimulate the production of estrogen in the ovaries. Some estrogens are also produced in smaller amounts by other tissues such as the liver, adrenal glands, and the breasts. These secondary sources of estrogen are especially important in postmenopausal women.
While estrogens are present in both men and women, they are usually present at significantly higher levels in women of reproductive age. They promote the development of female secondary sex characteristics, such as breasts, and are also involved in the thickening of the endometrium and other aspects of regulating the menstrual cycle. Estradiol levels vary through the menstrual cycle, with levels highest just before ovulation.
In males estrogen regulates certain functions of the reproductive system important to the maturation of sperm and may be necessary for a healthy libido.
ESTROGENS and female organs
Female sex hormones (estrogens) are responsible for development of main female organs – Oviducts (Fallopian Tubes), Uterus, Vagina and mammary glands (breasts).
ESTROGENS and puberty
Estrogen plays a large role in a female’s puberty – once female hits puberty, the menstrual cycle starts. Estrogens are responsible for causing development of the sex organs including breast tissue. Estrogens are responsible for the main signals that start menstruation.
Estrogens also stimulate the growth of pubic and underarm hair and help the skeleton complete maturation. Besides stimulating the growth of the breast tissue, estrogens are also responsible for coloration of the aureole and nipples.
ESTROGENS and menstrual cycle
ESTROGENS in WOMEN HEALTH
Menstrual cycle is a complicated process – matter of hormone communication between two parts of the brain called the hypothalamus and the anterior pituitary and the ovaries. During the cycle, estradiol is released to thicken the lining of the uterine wall to prepare for implantation from an impregnated egg. In normal healthy situation the estradiol will rise to higher levels than normal and then drop off (called estradiol picks).
The estradiol sends the signal to the anterior pituitary to cause ovulation. If there is no pregnancy, the body will shed the thick lining of the uterine wall, thus starting the period.
ESTROGENS and sex drive
Estrogens are essentially the hormones that create sexual feelings and urges in females, both human and animal alike. Estrogens are also responsible for stimulating the characteristics that make a woman feminine and sexy.
Several studies noted better correlation between sexual desire and androgen levels than for estrogen levels
ESTROGENS and ovulation
When an egg follicle matures, it creates estrogens (mainly estradiol) which are signaling the uterus to thicken its lining to prepare for pregnancy. Estrogens also keep the body from ovulating while a woman is pregnant, along with progesterone, another female hormone.
ESTROGENS and pregnancy
Once the body becomes pregnant, estriol is released from the fetus and the uterus. Estriol is the main form of estrogen during pregnancy and is also a sign of the health of the fetus. Estrogens are also responsible breast development of the breast tissue and preparation for lactation and breastfeeding.
ESTROGENS and metabolism
Estrogens also control some of the metabolic processes of the human body, such as exactly how fast bones grow. Estrogens increase production of the cells that build bones, or osteoblasts. Healthy levels of osteoblasts are needed to maintain bone health and density. Women whose production of natural estrogen has decreased are at higher risk for developing fragile bones or osteoporosis. Actually estrogens deficiency can lead to osteoporosis. Estrogens also help lower cholesterol levels.
ESTROGENS and skin
Estrogen assists in maintaining the balance of electrolytes and fluids in a woman’s skin. Women who no longer produce natural estrogen often complain of dry skin and discomfort related to dry vaginal tissues.
ESTROGENS in male body
While it is not entirely clear what function small amounts of estrogen fulfill regarding a man’s health, too much estrogen can cause a variety of health concerns. Enlarged breasts, hyperthyroidism, a pear-shaped weight-gain pattern, cirrhosis and early aging can be symptoms of an imbalanced estrogen-testosterone ratio.
DEFICIT OF ESTROGENS
ESTROGENS in WOMEN HEALTH
Deficiency of estrogens can lead to a number of problems including changes in mood, loss of bone mass, vaginal dryness and increased likelihood of urinary tract infections. Additionally, a lack of estrogen has been linked to increased cholesterol which can lead to heart problems or risks for heart disease.
Women with very low body fat, often due to excessive exercise, may also experience low estrogen levels. Symptoms of low estrogens could include fatigue, hot flashes, night sweats, memory lapses, difficult concentrating, joint pain, vaginal dryness, dry skin (which can lead to premature aging, wrinkles, and brown age spots), loss of libido, atherosclerosis, headaches/migraines, vaginal infection, arthritis, depression, panic attacks and low self esteem.
Low levels of estrogens could be caused by:
* Problems with ovarian function, which can be caused by a failure of an ovary to develop properly (Turner’s syndrome) or because of a drop in pituitary gland activity.
* Anorexia nervosa.
* A problem with the fetus or placenta during pregnancy.
INCREASED LEVELS OF ESTROGENS
High levels of estrogen are very common in women, especially in women over 35, yet most ignore and try to live with the problem because they attribute it as part of their menstrual cycle or aging.
Many women of menopausal age believe they are actually lacking in estrogen, and this misconception has led many women to engage in hormone replacement therapy. However, this additional estrogen only exacerbates the problem further, complicating health even more.
Women who are overweight, have high blood pressure or diabetes, take estrogen-containing drugs or are in certain stages of pregnancy may also be suffering from excess estrogen. This condition is also referred to ‘estrogen dominance’, because while some women may have surges of estrogen, it is often the imbalance between the normal hormones levels in the body, progesterone and estrogen, where the problems most occur.
Symptoms of high levels of estrogen may include PMS, migraines, mood swings, feeling easily angered, cramps, uterine fibroids, depression, unexplained weight gain, feeling fatigued or lethargic, osteoporosis, insomnia, allergies, memory loss, skin problems such as acne, psoriasis, or a red flushed appearance, breast sore, tender, and/or enlarged breasts, miscarriage, low sex drive, high blood pressure, hot flashes and irregular periods.
High levels of estrogens could be caused by:
* Ovarian stimulation used to treat infertility (for example, before in vitro fertilization).
* Cancer, such as cancer of the ovaries, testicles, or adrenal glands.
* Serious liver disease (cirrhosis).
* A pregnancy with more than one fetus, such as twins or triplets.
* Early (precocious) puberty.
Estrogen increases the risk that you will develop endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus). The longer you take estrogen, the greater the risk that you will develop endometrial cancer. If you have not had a hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus), you should be given another medication called a progestin to take with estrogen. This may decrease your risk of developing endometrial cancer, but may increase your risk of developing certain other health problems, including breast cancer. About 80% of breast cancers, once established, rely on supplies of the hormone estrogen to grow – they are known as hormone-sensitive or hormone-receptor-positive cancers. Suppression of production in the body of estrogen is a treatment for these cancers.
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Disclaimer: It is strongly recommended to consult your doctor for professional advice. Above mentioned information and recommendations are just general and should be adapted to each person according to personal health indicators and status.