Causes of a Low Estrogen Level

Estrogen is a type of steroid hormone-a molecule synthesized from cholesterol. Women produce estrogen in their ovaries, and men produce small amounts in their testes. Low estrogen levels can lead to a number of unpleasant side effects. A number of factors including some pain medications and cancer therapeutics can cause low levels. In other cases, low estrogen can be caused by natural conditions or as a result of an underlying disease.

Menopause

A natural cause of low estrogen is menopause. During menopause, the ovaries cease to function, so a woman no longer ovulates or menstruates. The ovaries stop producing estrogen, as it is no longer needed to control menses and prepare the body for pregnancy. As result, blood estrogen levels drop.
Women entering menopause may experience a number of symptoms, including depression, incontinence and a change in cognitive functioning, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Women experiencing severe symptoms can take hormone-replacement therapy to raise estrogen and other hormone levels and alleviate the symptoms of menopause.

Prolactinoma

In some cases, low estrogen levels signal a dangerous underlying disorder, such as a prolactinoma. Prolactinomas are benign tumors that secrete prolactin-a hormone that can affect estrogen levels. Prolactinomas grow on the pituitary gland, a part of the brain that regulates hormone levels. The growth of the tumor leads to a decrease in estrogen production, according to the National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service.
Those with a prolactinoma may experience symptoms including skipped periods and infertility, a decrease in sex drive and headaches or eye problems. Prolactinomas can be treated by surgery to remove the tumor or by radiotherapy or drug therapy.

Anorexia Nervosa

In some cases, anorexia nervosa can lead to low estrogen levels. Anorexia nervosa is a psychological and physical disease that can be life-threatening. Those with anorexia nervosa have a severely distorted body image, causing them to starve themselves in an effort to lose weight. This is commonly accompanied by malnutrition and disease, as the body does not ingest enough fuel.
One serious effect of anorexia nervosa is hormonal changes, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. Those with the condition have lower estrogen levels, which lead to missed periods and infertility. Treatment must address the physical and psychological aspects of the disease.

About this Author

Louise Tremblay recently finished an M.Sc. in molecular and cellular biology in Ontario, Canada, with years of cancer research experience. She has experience writing articles and Web content on science, heath and fitness, diet and personal wellness.