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What are the estrogens (and what are their functions)

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Estrogens are one of the main sexual hormones that women have and are responsible for the development of physical characteristics and female sexual organs. This hormone is produced by the ovaries, by the placenta during embarrassment, and to a lesser extent, by the adrenal glands.

Although it is associated with female reproductive functions, estrogen is also produced in small parts by the testes, exercising important functions in the male reproductive system, such as participating in libido, erectile function and sperm production.

There are some situations in which estrogen can be increased or decreased and cause some changes in the body, such as the case of insufficiency of ovaries, polycystic ovaries or hypogonadism, for example, which can be confirmed by the doctor through medication of your values ​​in blood.



Estrogens play their main role in regulating the reproductive cycle of women, as well as in the definition and development of their sexuality before puberty, they are also responsible for initiating and regulating menstrual cycles and producing various physical changes, such as such as: the formation of the breasts, the pubic and axillary skin, and the ensanchamiento de las caderas.

The different functions of estrogens according to their location are:

  • In the breasts: is responsible for the development of the tissue of the mammary gland and of the mammary ducts during puberty and in the embarazo;
  • In the uterus: Estrogens are responsible for the growth of endometrial cells in the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle and in their thickening for the preparation of embarassment. In addition, it stimulates the maturation of the eggs;
  • In the vagina: favors the development of your fabrics and your lubrication. In the absence of estrogens, there are symptoms of dryness known as vulvovaginal atrophy;
  • In the huesos: during puberty, estrogen helps the development of the huesos. In addition, it protects them by preventing the loss of calcium, which helps to maintain the consistency of the skeleton and thus prevent osteoporosis;
  • In the skin: maintains its hydration and favors the increase of collagen production;
  • In the cardiovascular system: thanks to estrogens, cholesterol levels are kept low and induce the production of HDL dominated by “good cholesterol”, providing a natural protection against cardiovascular diseases;
  • In the brain: improves cerebral blood flow, improving memory.

In addition, it plays an important role in the emotional behavior and libido of women, helps the distribution of body fat by forming the female silhouette, gives a healthy aspect to the skin and strengthens the nails and the hair.

In men, estrogen also participates in the libido, in the erectile function and in the production of spermatozoa, as well as in the health of the bones, the heart and the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.



Estrona, estradiol and estriol are the most important estrogens produced in the human body, exerting different functions at different stages of life.

Estrone (E1)

Estrona is produced by the ovaries, as well as the adipose tissue and the adrenal glands. It is the main estrogen that is found in women after menopause, and is also found in men.

Because it is less potent than other types of estrogen, it can be stored by the body so that the body can convert it to estradiol when necessary. See what is the estradiol and its normal values.

Estradiol (E2)

It is produced mainly in the ovaries, it is the most potent estrogen and the one that is found at the highest concentration in women of fertile and non-embarazadas. It plays a fundamental role in sexual development, varying its levels throughout the menstrual cycle. After menopause, it descends to a very low but constant level. See how the estradiol test is performed.

Estriol (E3)

It is the main estrogen during pregnancy and is produced in large parts by the placenta. The levels increase considerably until reaching childbirth. Estriol promotes the growth of the uterus and gradually prepares the body of the woman to give birth and for lactation. Through a urine test, it is possible to detect and diagnose any type of problem, such as fetal suffering or placental insufficiency.

Estrogens and progesterone are the most important female sex hormones. Both are produced in the ovary and together they control the menstrual cycles, increasing the decrease according to the different phases of the menstrual cycle.

In the ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle, the estrogen level reaches its maximum point, and progesterone does not occur until after ovulation, in the second phase of the cycle, being responsible for the maturation of the endometrium after it ovulation, facilitating the arrival of nutrients to the possible embryo implanted in the event of an embarrassment. Understand better how the menstrual cycle works.

If the ovum is not fertilized, it can produce progesterone and estrogens begin to decrease.

Menstrual cycle with estrogen and progesterone variations

Menstrual cycle with estrogen and progesterone variations

The amount of estrogen in the body is measured by the amount of estradiol circulating in the body through a blood test. The reference values ​​of this exam vary according to the age and the gender of the person, in addition, they can vary according to the laboratory.

In general, the estradiol value considered normal in men is from 20.0 to 52.0 pg/ml. However, in the case of women, this value varies according to the phase of the menstrual cycle, which includes:

  • Follicular phase: 1.3 to 266.0 pg/mL
  • Mitad of the menstrual cycle: 49.0 to 450.0 pg/mL
  • luteal phase: 26.0 to 165.0 pg/mL
  • Menopause: 10 to 50.0 pg/mL
  • Menopause treated with hormone replacement: 10.0 to 93.0 pg/mL

The estrogen values ​​above or below the reference values ​​can indicate the existence of a health problem, it is important to consult a doctor to verify the cause and indicate the most appropriate treatment, if necessary.

high estrogens

The main situations that can cause an increase in estrogens in the body are precocious puberty, perimenopause, polycystic ovary syndrome, embarrassment and the presence of a tumor in the ovaries or in the adrenal gland. Furthermore, women with obesity can also produce more estrogen from fatty tissue.

When estrogen levels are high, you may experience some symptoms, such as:

  • Weight gain, especially around the waist, hips and muscles;
  • Menstrual problems, such as light or heavy bleeding, and even irregularities in the menstrual cycle;
  • Impairment of symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome;
  • Fibrocystic sinuses (non-cancerous breast lumps);
  • Fibromas (non-cancerous tumors) in the uterus;
  • fatigue;
  • Decreased libido;
  • Feeling depressed or anxious;
  • Pain in the sinuses;
  • Difficulty to be embarrassed.

High estrogen levels have also been related to the growth of breast cancer and endometrium.

In men, an increase in estrogen can cause erectile dysfunction, decreased libido or infertility; increase blood clotting and arterial narrowing, increasing the risk of heart disease and hypertension; and breast development, known as male gynecomastia. Learn more about gynecomastia and how it is treated.

low estrogens

The most frequent reason for low estrogen in women is menopause, which is a natural condition of women’s life in which the ovaries dejan to produce this hormone, because most of the estrogen is produced only by them fat cells of the body and by the adrenal gland, but in small areas.

Other situations that can cause a decrease in estrogen are the surgical removal of the ovaries, ovarian insufficiency, Turner syndrome, use of oral contraceptives, hypopituitarism and ectopic embarrassment. The symptoms that appear in this situation are:

  • Menstrual periods that are less frequent or stop;
  • Hot flashes (sudden sensation of heat) and/or night sweats;
  • Trouble sleeping and even insomnia;
  • Dryness and thinning of the walls of the vagina;
  • Decreased libido;
  • Mood swings;
  • Headache;
  • Excessive tiredness;
  • Difficulty in attention or memory loss;
  • Dry skin.

In addition, low estrogens can increase the risk of suffering cardiovascular diseases and causing osteoporosis, especially during menopause, and in some cases hormone replacement therapy is necessary, which should be indicated by a doctor if deemed necessary. Get more information about hormone replacement therapy in menopause.

In men, low estrogen levels can occur due to hypogonadism or hypopituitarism and cause symptoms such as fluid retention in the body, accumulation of abdominal fat, loss of bone density, irritability, depression, anxiety or excessive tiredness.

Watch the video for a continuation of some advice on how to eat during menopause:

In women, estrogen is produced mainly by the ovaries and its synthesis by stimulating the hormones produced by the pituitary in the brain, LH and FSH, which send signals to the ovaries to produce estradiol, which is the most common type of estrogen potent produced in the long term of the reproductive age of women.

Other types of estrogens, less potent, that are estrogen and estriol, do not need the stimulation of brain hormones, and that cells of adipose tissue, mammary, of the bones and blood vessels, the adrenal gland and the placenta (during embarrassment) produces an enzyme that converts cholesterol into estrogen.

In men, estradiol is produced in small amounts by the testes, the bone cells, the adipose tissue and the adrenal gland.

In addition to the production by the body, some foods may be due to this hormone, these are known as phytoestrogens or natural estrogens and some of them are soya, linaza, tofu or ajonjolí, for example, and increase in quantity. of estrogens in the body.

See the main foods rich in phytoestrogens.

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Consult a Doctor | Translated by User2937

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Isenção de responsabilidade – (versão em português): Este conteúdo foi preparado com base em informações de pesquisas, publicações adicionais ou no trabalho de tradução/verificação de um editor voluntário deste conselho web. Este é um serviço sem fins lucrativos. É altamente recomendável que todos os detalhes e informações publicadas sejam verificadas cuidadosamente. Nunca permitimos recomendações de medicamentos, bulas ou qualquer orientação sobre medicamentos. Nunca permitimos a política partidária como base para checagem. Para mais informações, leia nossos termos.

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