What are estrogen and estradiol? Do you have low levels of estrogen or estradiol? Discover what these hormones do and why they’re important to know about!
Estrogen tests to help check on concerns with puberty, fertility, menopause, and other conditions.
You may know estrogen as the hormone that plays a key role in many aspects of a woman’s health, such as bone and reproductive health. But did you know there are several forms of estrogen?
If your doctor needs to check to see if you might have a condition caused by too much or too little of a particular estrogen type, he/she may recommend that you take an estrogen test. Estrogen is a simple blood test.
The kinds of estrogen in a woman’s body differ based on whether she is premenopausal or postmenopausal. There are also different estrogen within your body which are made in different ways.
- Estrone (E1): Estrone is made in the ovaries before menopause. After menopause, estrone is stored in body fat and muscle cells. Women who have more body fat will still experience hot flashes during menopause, even though their body is storing more estrone than slimmer women. Estrone production goes down during pregnancy, which reduces your lifetime exposure to estrogen. (Therefore, pregnancy has a protective effect against the development of breast cancer).
- Estradiol (E2): Like estrone, estradiol is made in the ovaries. During pregnancy, there is less production of estradiol as well.
- Estriol (E3): Estriol is made by the placenta during pregnancy. This kind of estrogen is produced in the greatest quantities, more than estrone or estradiol, during pregnancy. Estriol production is an indicator of the health of your baby.
What is an estradiol test?
An estradiol test measures the amount of the hormone estradiol in your blood. This estrogen is also called an E2 test.
Estradiol is a form of the hormone estrogen. It’s also called 17 beta-estradiol. The ovaries, breasts, and adrenal glands make estradiol. During pregnancy, the placenta also makes estradiol.
Estradiol helps with the growth and development of female sex organs, including the:
- fallopian tubes
Estradiol helps to control the way fat is distributed in the female body. It’s also essential for bone and joint health in females.
Males also have estradiol in their bodies. Their levels of estradiol are lower than the levels in females. In males, the adrenal glands and testes make estradiol. Estradiol has been shown in vitro to prevent the destruction of sperm cells, but its clinical importance in sexual function and development in men is likely less significant than in women.
What is the need for estradiol test?
Your doctor may refer to an estradiol test if female or male sex characteristics aren’t developing at a normal rate. An estradiol level that’s higher than normal shows that puberty is happening earlier than usual. This is a condition known as precocious puberty.
Lower levels of estradiol may show late puberty. The test can help your doctor find out if there are problems with your adrenal glands. It can also help determine if treatment for hypopituitarism, or decreased function of the pituitary gland, is working.
Your doctor may refer estradiol testing to look for causes of:
- abnormal menstrual periods
- abnormal vaginal bleeding
- infertility in women
Your doctor may also refer to an estradiol test if your menstrual cycle has stopped and you’re having symptoms of menopause. During and after menopause, a woman’s body will gradually produce less estrogen and estradiol, contributing to the symptoms experienced during menopause. A test of your estradiol level can help your doctor determine if you’re preparing to enter menopause or you’re already going through the transition.
The estradiol test can also show how well the ovaries are working. Therefore, your doctor may also refer to this test if you have symptoms of an ovarian tumour. The symptoms include:
- bloating or swelling in your abdomen
- trouble eating because of feeling full after eating a small amount of food
- pain in your lower abdominal and pelvic area
- weight loss
- frequent urination
An estradiol test usually isn’t used alone to make a diagnosis. However, the results help your doctor decide if further testing is necessary.
People undergoing transgender hormone therapy may receive estradiol. If so, their estradiol levels may be regularly tested and monitored by their doctors.
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Estradiol test preparation
Certain factors can affect estradiol levels. It’s important that you and your doctor discuss these factors. They may ask you to stop taking a certain medication or change the dose before your test.
Medications that can affect your estradiol levels include:
- birth control pills
- estrogen therapy
- phenothiazines, which are used to treat schizophrenia and other mental disorders
- the antibiotics tetracycline (Panmycin) and ampicillin.
Estradiol levels can also vary throughout the day and with a woman’s menstrual cycle. As a result, your doctor may ask you to have your blood tested at a certain time of day or at a certain time in your cycle. Conditions that can affect estradiol levels include:
Estradiol test result
- Normal levels of estradiol (E2) for menstruating women range from 15 to 350 picograms per millilitre (pg/mL).
- For postmenopausal women, normal levels should be lower than 10 pg/mL.
Estradiol levels that are higher than normal may suggest:
- early puberty
- tumours in the ovaries or testes
- gynecomastia, which is the development of breasts in men
- hyperthyroidism, which is caused by an overactive thyroid gland
- cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver
Lower than normal levels of estradiol may suggest:
- Turner syndrome, which is a genetic disorder in which a female has one X chromosome instead of two
- ovarian failure, or premature menopause, which occurs when the ovaries stop functioning before the age of 40
- polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a hormone disorder with a wide range of symptoms that are also believed to be a leading cause of infertility in women
- depleted estrogen production, which can be caused by low body fat
- hypogonadism, which occurs when the ovaries or testes don’t produce enough hormone
Once the results of your estradiol level test are available, your doctor will discuss the results with you and then present you with options for treatment.
Depending on your estrogen test results and your symptoms, your doctor may recommend other tests to help pinpoint a diagnosis.
One common test checks for levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH manages the menstrual cycle in women and stimulates egg production in the ovaries. In men, FSH prompts the production of sperm. If infertility is a concern, a test of FSH and luteinizing hormone (LH) are appropriate for men and women. The same is true if early puberty is suspected in boys or girls.
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