Estrogen is a chemical compound produced in different organs of the body and is responsible for the expression of many female characteristics. It also regulates a woman's menstrual cycle and cues the onset of puberty and menopause. While each woman's body is different, signs of low estrogen can indicate more serious conditions. Menopause is the most common factor for low estrogen and is a natural process, but other things such as premature ovarian failure, certain kinds of cancer, and thyroid conditions can also cause low estrogen. If you experience a cluster of these symptoms of low estrogen, have a physician evaluate your estrogen levels.
Low levels of estrogen can lead to vaginal dryness. This, in turn, can make sexual intercourse painful for women. Sometimes, the onset of menopause leads to vaginal problems that can cause the same issue. Since estrogen regulates the expression of sex characteristics, it also is responsible for providing a healthy libido and natural sexual responses. Low estrogen levels can weaken these responses, dampening libido and causing painful conditions such as postmenopausal atrophic vaginitis, which increases the likelihood of vaginal infections.
As your estrogen levels drop, especially after menopause and later in life, the walls of your urethra thin and you become more susceptible to urinary tract infections. That said, UTIs are fairly common for women of any age. Excercise, sexual intercourse, or general activity, particularly water sports, can lead to a UTI. Generally caused by bacteria in the urethra, most UTIs are easy to treat with over-the-counter medications. Symptoms of a UTI include burning or painful urination, blood in the urine, difficulty urinating, and abdominal cramps. If you notice these symptoms, consult your doctor. If you suspect your estrogen levels are causing your UTI, your doctor can prescribe appropriate treatments.
Estrogen regulates the menstrual cycle, promoting ovulation and the subsequent menstrual period. Several factors can affect your monthly cycle, including excess weight or sudden weight loss, excessive exercise, and malnutrition. Estrogen levels can play a role in each of these causes. Irregular or missed periods, if pregnancy is ruled out, can be a sign of lowered estrogen levels. As your body begins menopause, estrogen levels drop, and menstruation slows to a halt. During this time, your cycles may become longer, erratic, or stop altogether.
Estrogen and its partner hormone, progesterone, help regulate mood. When the balance of these hormones is thrown off, you might experience mood fluctuations ranging from extreme sadness and irritability to anger or joyfulness. Hormones affect the chemistry of the brain. Teens and women who are pregnant or going through menopause may experience mood swings due to hormonal changes. Mood swings can be caused by more than just hormones. If you experience extreme mood swings, talk to your doctor.
Low levels of estrogen are closely linked to hot flashes, which are a common side effect of menopause. A hot flash is a sudden feeling of warmth that seems to come out of nowhere. Your skin feels hot, you might sweat, and your palms and fingers get tingly. You might experience redness of the skin on the face, neck, ears, chest, or other areas, as well as a rapid heartbeat. If you notice these symptoms on a regular basis, and you've experienced other low-estrogen symptoms, consult with your physician. Hot flashes and night sweats can be uncomfortable, but they're generally harmless.
Tender breasts, where the tissue itself is sensitive to touch and pressure, can accompany a variety of hormone-based conditions. Pregnancy, the onset of puberty, premenstrual symptoms, ovulation, and menopause are all characterized by breast tenderness. If you've noticed that your breasts feel sore, especially if you've experienced other low-estrogen symptoms, a larger issue could be at play. Cold or warm compresses can temporarily soothe this symptom. If you notice that only one of your breasts is tender, if certain places feel hot, or if you feel a lump, seek medical attention.
Headaches and migraines can have many causes, one of which is low estrogen. Those who experience migraine headaches may also notice an uptick in the number, duration, and severity of their headaches. A consultation with your doctor to evaluate your estrogen levels can confirm or rule out low estrogen as a cause.
As you age, your bones density weakens. Although the exact effect of low estrogen on your bone density isn't fully known, scientists do notice a strong correlation between a drop in estrogen levels and reduction in bone strength. Low estrogen can lead to brittle bones and even osteoporosis, a condition where the bones become weak and easily breakable. High-calcium and high-magnesium diets are especially beneficial to women over forty. They can help replenish lost bone density and strengthen your skeletal system.
As your estrogen levels drop, you may experience periodic bouts of depression. Part of this is due to your body's acclimation to new hormone levels. Many women also report feeling sad at the onset of menopause, as they feel an important part of their life is now over. This feeling, in conjunction with mood swings, can cause depression. If you or someone you love seems lethargic, unable to find happiness in activities they once enjoyed, or has started sleeping for prolonged periods of time, consult with your doctor about depression.
Sleepiness, low energy levels, and becoming tired quickly are all signs of low estrogen levels. As these are also part of the natural aging process, this symptom can often be overlooked, However, if the fatigue caused by lower estrogen levels and menopause is interfering in your daily life, consult with your doctor about treatments that can help boost your energy levels.
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