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How Can You Test Estrogen Levels?

written by: Melanie Greenwood•edited by: Emma Lloyd•updated: 7/21/2010

Estrogen levels affect every aspect of women's health. Read on to learn the importance of estrogen balance, symptoms of imbalance, and find the answer to the question "how can you test estrogen levels"?

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    Estrogen and Women's Health

    The female body is an amazingly complex system. Many important bodily processes, from from fertility to emotional balance, are controlled by hormones, especially estrogen, the primary female sex hormone. While some fluctuation in estrogen levels is normal, if estrogen levels are too high, or too low, numerous health problems result. Read on to lean about the health issues that can be caused by estrogen imbalance, the types of estrogens there are, and the answer to the question of how can you test estrogen levels?

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    Symptoms of Estrogen Imbalance

    Estrogen imbalance has many causes, from abnormal function of the ovaries to normal processes such as menopause. When the body makes too much estrogen, it is called “excess estrogen." Symptoms of excess estrogen can include rapid, unexplained weight gain, breast tenderness, headaches, heavy periods, mood swings, and anxiety. Often, these symptoms are caused by hormone replacement therapy patients taking too high a dose of estrogen to combat the symptoms of menopause (Lee).

    When the body makes too little estrogen, it is called “estrogen deficiency." Symptoms of estrogen deficiency include the usual symptoms of menopause, including vaginal dryness, nigh sweats, hot flashes, painful intercourse, and depression (Lee). These symptoms are mild in menopausal women, and if mild, require no treatment, they are not normal for younger women and should be reported to a health care provider.

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    How Can You Test Estrogen Levels?

    Estrogen levels are tested with a blood or urine test, but there is no single test for “estrogen", since “estrogen" is actually not one hormone, but three. The first type of estrogen is estradiol, which controls the menstrual cycle (WebMD, 2008). Estradiol is also responsible for controlling the deveoplment of the female reproductive system during adolescence (Vorvick, 2009).

    The second type of estrogen is estriol, which is produced by the placenta during pregnancy. Imbalance in estriol levels can cause birth defects, which is why it is a good idea for mothers-to-be get their estriol levels tested (WebMD, 2008).

    The third type of estrogen is estrone. This hormone is typically measured in menopausal and post-menopausal women to ensure that their levels are balanced. (WebMD, 2008).

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    What to Do If You Need an Estrogen Test

    As with all medical care, it is important to know why you are being tested and what the results will mean for your immediate and long-term health. Write down your questions before your appointment, so that you don't forget anything, and insist on being provided with answers you can understand.

    Other than that, no specific preparation is required. Do, however, tell your provider if you are currently menstruating, could be pregnant, or on hormone replacement therapy (including bio-identicals) as these can all affect your estrogen levels.

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    References

    Lee, J. (MD). (n.d.). Take the Hormone Balance Test. www.johnleemd.com. Retrieved 19 July, 2010 fromhttp://www.johnleemd.com/store/resource_hormonetest.html

    Vorvick, L. (M.D.) (2009, 26 July). Estradiol Test. MedicinePlus.com. Retrieved 19 July, 2010 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003711.htm.

    WebMD Staff. (2008, 14 April.) Estrogens. WebMD.com. Retrieved 19 July, 2010 from http://women.webmd.com/estrogens