Hyperestrogenism: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments
Having too much estrogen in your body can have many effects on the way you feel. The exact symptoms depend on whether you are male or female, but in both sexes, hyperestrogenism can have significant repercussions on your health, including increased risk of cancer. If you have any worries about your hormone levels, see your primary care doctor for advice.
What Is Hyperestrogenism?
Both male and female bodies produce estrogen, although women usually have much more than men. Young women also have more estrogen than women who have passed through the menopause. This hormone is necessary for bone formation and blood clotting, and it also plays an essential role in the female reproductive system.
Hyperestrogenism, also known as high estrogen or estrogen excess, is a condition where the amount of estrogen in the body is higher than normal. Here are some terms that may help you understand this condition better:
- Estrogen: A female sex hormone that also performs essential functions such as promoting bone growth in men.
- Androgens: Male sex hormones, including testosterone.
- Menopause: The time in a woman’s life when she stops having periods and being fertile.
Stages and Types of Hyperestrogenism
High estrogen in men can be a very different condition to hyperestrogenism in women. The symptoms of the two conditions are usually very different, and the treatments for high estrogen in one sex are not always appropriate in the other.
Three types of estrogen naturally exist in the human body:
- Estradiol: The most prominent type of estrogen in women who are of childbearing age but who are not pregnant. Also produced in small amounts in men.
- Estriol: Produced during pregnancy.
- Estrone: The most prominent type of estrogen in women who have gone through menopause. Also produced in small amounts in men.
The term "high estrogen" can mean you have too much of any of these kinds of estrogen in your body.
Symptoms and Causes
Symptoms of high estrogen in women:
- Swollen, tender breasts
- Irregular or missing periods
- Low sex drive
- Weight gain
Symptoms of high estrogen in men:
- Breast growth
- Problems getting or maintaining an erection
A tumor in the ovaries, testicles, or adrenal glands can sometimes cause high estrogen. Taking too high a dose of hormone replacement therapy or hormonal contraception can also cause high estrogen. Finally, liver conditions, such as cirrhosis, may cause high estrogen.
Prevention and Risks
Some studies have shown that people who are obese are more likely to have high estrogen than those who are a healthy weight for their height. One way to prevent high estrogen could be to control your weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise.
If you take hormonal contraceptives or undergo hormone replacement therapy, it's a good idea to have regular check ups with your doctor to ensure the treatment is not having a harmful effect on your hormone levels.
High estrogen can put women at increased risk of breast cancer and men at risk of infertility, so it is important to get treatment for this condition as soon as possible.
Diagnosis and Tests
If your doctor thinks you may have high estrogen, they can order an estrogen test. This kind of test measures the amount of each type of estrogen (estradiol, estriol, and estrone) present in a blood or urine sample.
Before ordering an estrogen test, your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms to find out whether high estrogen is likely to be the cause. Be sure to tell the doctor about all medications you are currently using, including contraceptive pills, patches, and implants, as well as any natural supplements.
Treatments, Procedures, and Medication
The right treatment for hyperestrogenism depends on what is causing the excess of estrogen. If you have a tumor that is causing your body to produce too much estrogen, you may need surgery to remove the tumor and possibly radiotherapy or chemotherapy to prevent it coming back.
Other options for treating high estrogen include medications that suppress the body’s production of this hormone. Women can take progestogens to rebalance their hormone levels. If you are a man, your doctor may recommend that you take androgens (male hormones) to balance out the excess estrogen. If you are already taking hormonal treatments that contain estrogen, your doctor may want to decrease the dosage or switch you to a different option.
Healthy Lifestyle Tips
To keep your hormone levels balanced, eat a healthy, balanced diet and check that your weight isn’t getting too high. Getting regular exercise could help you to lose or maintain your weight, reducing your risk of hyperestrogenism.
Avoid taking any supplements that are designed to affect hormone levels, such as those intended to improve fertility or muscle growth, without first consulting your doctor. If you take hormonal contraception or use hormone replacement pills, patches, or gels to manage the symptoms of the menopause, always stick to the stated dose.
There is some evidence that eating a diet which is very high in fat could increase the amount of estrogen your body produces, whereas going vegetarian could reduce estrogen levels. Cutting back on sources of animal fats, such as red meat and cheese, could help you to manage your hyperestrogenism. Meanwhile, eating soy could reduce the effects of estrogen on the body.
Before making drastic changes to your diet, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor. As obesity is a risk factor for hyperestrogenism, it is important to adopt a diet that allows you to keep your weight under control.
What Type of Doctors to See
Scheduling an appointment with your primary care doctor is a good first step in getting your high estrogen diagnosed and treated. If your primary care provider thinks you need specialist help to manage your hormones, they may refer you to an endocrinologist, which is a doctor that specializes in the hormonal systems of the body. Women may want to see a gynecologist to discuss the symptoms of high estrogen, such as irregular bleeding or more severe symptoms of PMS. Men may need to see an andrologist (a doctor that specializes in male health).
High estrogen can affect both men and women, so no matter who you are, do not hesitate to see your doctor if you think you may have a problem with your hormones. Many treatment options exist for high estrogen and its symptoms. Book an appointment with your doctor today to take the first step in learning how to treat and manage this condition.
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