The body’s hormones are like a seesaw. When they’re perfectly balanced, your body works as it should. But when they’re unbalanced, your body may begin experiencing problems.
Estrogen is known as the “female” hormone and testosterone is known as the “male” hormone. Although they’re identified with a specific gender, both hormones are found in women and men. Women have more estrogen and men have more testosterone.
In women, estrogen helps initiate sexual development. It also regulates a woman’s menstrual cycle and affects the entire reproductive system.
High estrogen or estrogen dominance can happen if estrogen levels are too great. These higher levels can occur naturally. Too much estrogen can also be the result of medication. For example, estrogen replacement therapy, a popular treatment during menopause, may cause the hormone to reach problematic levels. The body may also develop too little testosterone, which can upset the balance.
When your body’s estrogen and testosterone levels aren’t in sync, you may begin developing certain symptoms. Symptoms of high estrogen include:
- swelling and tenderness in the breasts
- decreased sex drive
- irregular menstrual periods
- mood swings
- fibrocystic developments in the breast
- weight gain
- hair loss
- cold hands or feet
- feeling tired or lacking energy
- difficulty with memory
- trouble sleeping
- increased symptoms of premenstrual syndrome or PMS
Although it’s called the female hormone, a man’s body also makes estrogen, just at lower levels. Men may begin to experience unusual symptoms if their estrogen levels increase significantly. Symptoms of high estrogen in men include:
- Infertility. Estrogen is partly responsible for creating healthy sperm. When estrogen levels are high, sperm levels in semen may fall. This can lead to fertility issues.
- Gynecomastia. Estrogen may stimulate breast tissue growth. Men with too much estrogen may start developing larger breasts.
- Erectile dysfunction. A balance of both testosterone and estrogen is important for healthy sexual growth and development. Sexual function may be impacted when these hormones become imbalanced. Men with high levels of estrogen may have difficulty getting or maintaining an erection.
Your doctor will likely order an estrogen blood test to see if you have high estrogen levels. A blood sample will be tested in a laboratory. The results will indicate if your estrogen levels are too low, too high, or in a healthy range. Based on these results, your doctor can choose to prescribe medications or lifestyle changes to address your symptoms.
High levels of estrogen can put you at a higher risk for other conditions. For example, elevated estrogen levels are a risk factor for breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, high levels of estrogen over a long period of time can also cause endometrial cancer.
If you’re experiencing unusual symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor. Your doctor can determine whether these symptoms are caused by high estrogen. It’s important to effectively treat high estrogen and any underlying cause. You’ll experience fewer symptoms and reduce your risk for related conditions.