Estrogen Deficiency in Men and Women
Estrogen is classified as a major female hormone (Female Hormone Balance Learn More) that is responsible for primary and secondary sexual characteristics (Female Sexual Stimulants Learn More) in women. Estrogen deficiency is characterized by low levels of active hormone in the serum and alterations in the normal sexual and physical functioning of the body.
It has been observed that the secretion and serum levels of estrogen declines with advancing age and reduces to significantly low levels as the menopause approaches (by the age of 55 years at an average). However, some women may experience early menopausal changes i.e. reduction in the serum levels before the age of 40 that may or may not be symptomatic.
Causes of Estrogen Deficiency
Estrogen deficiency is a serious issue and should be addressed to maintain optimal functioning of the body. Some notable causes of estrogen deficiency are
- Excessive physical activity
- Low adipose tissue stores
- Genetic disorder
- Decreased levels of Aromatase enzyme
Primary Symptoms of Estrogen Deficiency
- Loss of memory or early onset of Alzheimer’s disease
- Emotional changes and disturbances in the mood
- Frequent and unprovoked episodes of headache or migraine attacks
- Hot flashes
- Increased heart rate
- Night sweats
Importance of Managing / Treating Estrogen Deficiency
Estrogen maintain and moderate several physical functions by controlling the release of other hormones, secretion of new proteins and several other metabolic processes.
Pre-menstrual syndrome: Also known as PMS (Menstrual Cramps Learn More), is characterized by bloating (that may be generalized or localized involving mainly upper body and trunk), depression, anger, physical and emotional stress (Physiological Stress Learn More) and tenderness in breast. Women who are estrogen deficient tend to experience more abrupt and disturbing PMS.
Ovulation: Aberrations in the normal rhythm or secretion of estrogen can affect ovulation. Concurrently, it will also affect the fertility (Fertility & Foods Learn More) and ability to get pregnant.
UTIs: Urinary tract infections (UTI Antibiotics Learn More) are very frequently reported in females experiencing estrogen deficiency. This is mainly because normal estrogen secretion helps in maintaining the normal slightly acidic pH of the genital and urinary tract that controls the growth of microorganisms. With changes in the internal environment, the microorganisms may grow unchecked culminating in frequent episodes of disabling UTIs.
Heart Diseases: Estrogen helps in maintaining the serum cholesterol concentration in check. Persistent deficiency of estrogen can increase the risk of cardiovascular issues.
Decreased Libido: Decrease in estrogen levels also affects the libid0 (Female Libido Learn More) of a female and further leads to certain issues that may interfere with the quality of sex life (Female Sexual Stimulants Learn More) such as vaginal dryness (Lubricant & Sperm Quality), mood swings, weight gain (Body Weight & Psyche), and decreased clitoral sensitivity.
Migraine: Headaches are another concern and often an early symptom of estrogen deficiency.
Managing Estrogen Deficiency
Research published in peer reviewed medical journal Menopause (1) suggested that premature deficiency of estrogen can increase the rate of aging and may lead to optic nerve damage. A recent study published in Journal of Clinical Investigation (2) indicated that loss of estrogen influence may increase osteoclastic activity or in simple words can accelerate the process of osteoporosis. Women who have chronic estrogen deficiency are at much higher risk of developing bone fractures.
Precautions & Adaptations Taken to Avoid Complications due to Estrogen Deficiency
- Speak to a healthcare professional and include vitamins and minerals in your daily diet.
- If the cause of estrogen deficiency is an organic disease or hormonal aberration, therapeutic or pharmacological options must be sought
- For management of sexual discomfort due to estrogen deficiency, certain prescription and over the counter estrogen gels can be used.
- Maintain healthy, functional and stress-free lifestyle.
Moderate to severe estrogen deficiency can alter the overall quality of life and therefore early medical intervention is needed to address the issue appropriately.
Vajaranant, T. S., & Pasquale, L. R. (2012). Estrogen deficiency accelerates aging of the optic nerve. Menopause (New York, NY), 19(8), 942-947.
Lean, J. M., Davies, J. T., Fuller, K., Jagger, C. J., Kirstein, B., Partington, G. A., … & Chambers, T. J. (2003). A crucial role for thiol antioxidants in estrogen-deficiency bone loss. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 112(6), 915-923.
Shumaker, S. A., Legault, C., Rapp, S. R., Thal, L., Wallace, R. B., Ockene, J. K., … & Whims Investigators. (2003). Estrogen plus progestin and the incidence of dementia and mild cognitive impairment in postmenopausal women: the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study: a randomized controlled trial. Jama, 289(20), 2651-2662.