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, she may recommend that you take an estrogen test. It’s a simple blood test, and it can measure up to three types of this estrogen.
Who Gets This Test?
An estrogen test measures any of three forms of the hormone:
- Estrone (E1)
- Estradiol (E2)
- Estriol (E3)
A test for one type may be called an “estrone test” or an “E1 test,” for example. The screening may also be referred to as an “estrogenic hormones” test.
Doctors may recommend testing of estradiol or estrone for symptoms such as:
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause
- Problems with menstrual cycles
- Menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and irregular menstrual periods
Girls whose sex organs develop earlier or later than normal may also get tested for E1 and E2 levels.
Doctors usually test E3 during pregnancy, when it temporarily becomes the main estrogen. Abnormal levels of estriol may be a sign of problems with the baby’s health -- but you’d get a lot more tests to find out for sure.
You might need several tests to track changes in your estrogen levels over time.
Testing in Men
Men also have estrogen, although their levels are usually lower than they are in women. Estrogen levels that are too low or too high in men can lead to health problems.
A man might have an estrogen test to:
Preparing for the Test
You don’t need to do anything special to prepare for an estrogen test. You don’t need to stop eating or drinking anything before it as you do with some types of blood tests. But before the test, you should tell your doctor about all the medications and supplements you take. It’s especially important to tell your doctor if you take birth control pills or hormone therapy, which may affect the test results.
During the test, your doctor or another health care professional will take a little blood from a vein in your arm. A lab will then test that blood sample.
What the Results Mean
Estrogen levels that are considered normal or healthy depend on your age and your gender. For women, pregnancy will also have a big effect on your estrogen levels. Where you are in your menstrual cycle could also affect the results.
High or low levels of a specific form of estrogen aren’t enough to diagnosis of your condition. The test results can help, though, to find the cause of your symptoms.
High levels of E1 or E2 could mean early puberty in girls or tumors in the ovaries in girls and women. For boys and men, increased E1 and E2 levels could signal delayed puberty, tumors in the testicles, and may be the cause of gynecomastia.
For both men and women, high E1 and E2 levels could mean:
For pregnant women, high E3 levels could mean labor will occur soon.
Low estrogen levels in women are signs of several conditions, including:
- Low levels of pituitary hormones
- Poorly functioning ovaries
- Failing pregnancy (when estriol levels drop)
- Eating disorder
- Turner syndrome (inherited condition caused by an abnormal or missing X chromosome)
Low estradiol levels also happen, naturally, after menopause.
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.
Talk With Your Doctor
If you have questions about your hormone levels or any health issue, ask your doctor. It helps when you’re as detailed as possible in describing your symptoms. The more information your health care provider has, the better.