In this article, we begin by looking at what estrogen is. We then describe how levels become high, the symptoms and possible complications, and how a doctor diagnoses and treats high estrogen levels.
What is estrogen?
Estrogen is the main female sex hormone, but it is present in everyone. Females tend to have higher levels of estrogen, while males have more testosterone, which is the main male sex hormone.
In females, estrogen plays a role in the menstrual cycle and reproductive system. In males, it is important for sexual function.
Males and females can develop high levels of estrogen, which can affect overall health and sexual development and function.
Symptoms of high estrogen
Having excess estrogen can affect males and females differently and may cause a variety of symptoms.
High levels of estrogen can lead to weight gain, particularly around the hips and waist. Excess estrogen can also cause menstrual problems, such as:
- irregular periods
- light spotting
- heavy bleeding
- more severe symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, or PMS
Females with high estrogen can experience other symptoms, including:
- cold hands and feet
- difficulty sleeping
- hair loss
- low sex drive
- mood changes, depression, or anxiety
- problems with memory
- swollen or tender breasts
- noncancerous breast lumps
- uterine fibroids, which are noncancerous growths that develop on, in, or around the uterus
In males, symptoms of high estrogen can include:
- erectile dysfunction
- enlarged breasts, or gynecomastia
Complications of high estrogen
Having high estrogen can increase the risk of developing certain health problems, including:
- thyroid diseases
- blood clots
- heart attack
- breast cancer
- ovarian cancer
Some research suggests that men with high estrogen levels may experience depression.
A 2018 study involving 4,000 adult male participants found an association between increased levels of estradiol and symptoms of depression in younger men. Estradiol is a form of estrogen.
Causes of high estrogen
Males and females can develop hormonal imbalances.
The body may only produce high levels of estrogen, or it may produce high levels of estrogen and low levels of another hormone, such as testosterone or progesterone.
Estrogen levels can also rise in response to medications. For example, people taking estrogen replacement therapy, a treatment for menopause symptoms, may experience adverse effects of high estrogen.
Other medications that can increase estrogen levels include:
- hormonal contraceptives
- certain antibiotics
- some herbal or natural remedies
- phenothiazines, which doctors use to treat some mental or emotional disorders
High estrogen can run in families. Also, certain health problems can cause estrogen levels to rise, including:
- ovarian tumors
- liver disease