As we age, our bodies and our hormones change. Starting in your late 40s, your hair might thin, your menstrual cycle can be unreliable, or you may start having hot flashes—and you might wonder if low estrogen might be the cause of your concerns.
Low estrogen can have a major effect on all sorts of body functions. Family medicine practitioner Dr. Michelle Ayazo often helps patients understand their body’s hormones. She emphasizes that because hormones are so complex, it’s crucial to have a doctor’s help to understand what’s happening with your body and find whole-body problems that come with imbalances.
In this blog, Dr. Ayazo breaks down what you should know about low estrogen and what you can do to treat it.
Estrogen 101: Understanding the Basics
Estrogens are a group of hormones often called “female sex hormones,” but people of all genders have varying amounts of estrogens in their bodies. Ovaries typically produce the most estrogen, but other body parts (including the brain, adrenal glands, and fat tissue) can make it, too. In people with testes, the body converts some testosterone into estrogen.
Estrogens play a role in bodily processes from head to toe—including puberty, menstruation, sexual function, body hair growth, bone and skin health, urinary tract health, and much more. They also work in combination with other hormones in the endocrine system, including progestogens and androgens.
It’s normal to have naturally lower levels of estrogen before puberty and after menopause. But, imbalances can cause uncomfortable symptoms and increase the risk of developing problems in the future.
Signs & Symptoms of Low Estrogen
Because estrogen does so much in the body, imbalances can lead to a wide range of symptoms that you may not realize are connected to your hormone levels. These can include issues like:
- Hot flashes, flushing, and sweating at night
- Weight gain
- Thinning hair
- Dry skin/lips
- Vaginal dryness (which may make sexual intercourse painful)
- Irregular menstrual cycles (which may even stop completely)
- Infertility (trouble getting pregnant)
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Mood changes, such as depression, anxiety, brain fog, etc.
- Trouble sleeping and fatigue
- Low sex drive
Low estrogen also increases the risk of osteoporosis (low bone density), which means you may fracture bones more easily after an accident or fall. It’s also associated with increased cholesterol and a greater risk of heart attacks.
Causes of Low Estrogen
Lower estrogen levels are normal in adults experiencing menopause (or about to start menopause) and young kids, and those low levels aren’t always a cause for concern. However, anyone can have hormonal imbalances outside of what’s considered typical for their age.
Some possible causes of hormonal imbalances include:
- Removal of the ovaries
- Hypogonadism (low-functioning ovaries)
- Premature (early) menopause
- Chronic kidney disease
- Pituitary gland disorders
- Some autoimmune diseases
- Some genetic conditions
- Eating disorders (such as anorexia)
- Excessive exercising
Your doctor can run a blood test to check the levels of estrogen and other hormones in your body.
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How Doctors Treat Hormonal Imbalances
There isn’t one best medication for low estrogen. What works for you will depend on a few different factors—including the underlying cause of your hormonal imbalances, if other hormones are affected, and your specific personal and family medical history. Your doctor may ask you to come back a few times to test your blood and fine-tune your treatment.
Dr. Ayazo explains that your physician will look at all of these different factors to find a treatment that works best for you. Some possible options include:
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Taking medicine containing estrogen can balance out your body’s hormone levels and replace what you’re missing. There are different types of HRT depending on the type of estrogen you’re missing. HRT might involve taking pills, receiving injections, applying a patch or cream, or even using a vaginal ring. HRT isn’t for everyone, so talk to your doctor to learn more.
- Lifestyle changes. Changes to your daily life—which can include everything from eating a balanced diet to using a lubricant to relieve dryness during intercourse—can help make low estrogen symptoms more manageable. Dr. Ayazo urges patients to talk to their doctors about the specific symptoms causing concern, as they can help find personalized treatment options.
- Mental health counseling. Low estrogen can lead to mood swings and feelings of depression. Plus, existing mental health struggles (such as anorexia) are sometimes at the root of hormone issues, too. While therapy or counseling won’t change your hormones, a mental health professional can help improve your mental wellbeing and teach you how to cope with depression, anxiety, and more.
Questions? Talk to a Doctor Today
If you’re concerned about your estrogen levels or just want to talk to an expert about your symptoms, it’s time to see a doctor.
Dade City and Wesley Chapel patients can click here to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ayazo or call (813) 751-3700. No matter your health concerns, Dr. Ayazo is here to answer your questions and work with you on a personalized plan to help you start feeling better.
About Michelle Ayazo, MD
Dr. Michelle Ayazo is a board-certified family medicine physician and Obesity Medicine specialist. As a physician, Dr. Ayazo’s goal is to help patients find whole-body health in a way that combines medicine with healthy lifestyle habits.
In addition to helping with hormonal imbalances, Dr. Ayazo specializes in chronic disease management, functional medicine, skin health, and much more.
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Every patient is different, so talk with your doctor to learn what treatment options are best for you.