Estradiol is present in both men and women, and is the most abundant type of estrogen in humans. The question of whether to have estradiol levels tested depends greatly on the individual. There are a variety of conditions that can benefit from the doctor knowing or monitoring the estradiol levels of the body. Unlike cholesterol levels, or blood pressure, estradiol is not something that needs to be monitored in a healthy individual.
When a woman is still in her reproductive years, the majority of estradiol is manufactured in the ovaries. Estradiol levels can be used to determine how the ovaries are functioning. Estradiol is also produced by the brain, in fat cells, and in the walls of arteries.
Women of reproductive age that are suffering from amenorrhea, or the absence of the menstrual cycle, should have their estradiol levels checked as part of the testing necessary to determine what has caused the body to cease menstruation. This testing is also beneficial for women who experience irregular periods and to detect the onset of menopause.
For women that are undergoing fertility treatments, testing estradiol levels is an important component of the treatment procedure. The body’s estradiol level is very predictable, and monitoring these levels can ensure the best results with fertility treatment. During a normal menstrual cycle, the estradiol levels in the body rise as a follicle develops. When an egg is released at ovulation, the estradiol level temporarily drops. Levels rise again during the second half of the cycle.
At the end of the cycle, one of two things happens. If the woman is not pregnant, levels drop. If the woman is pregnant, levels rise and will continue this upward rise throughout the pregnancy. This is due to the hormones produced by the placenta.
For women who are undergoing the unpleasant side effects of menopause, checking estradiol levels may provide some relief. Low levels of estradiol can be treated with hormone replacement therapy. This therapy combines estradiol with other forms of estrogen, as well as progestin. Hormone replacement therapy can reduce many of the symptoms of menopause, as the body becomes accustomed to dealing with lowered levels of hormones.
Medications that supplement estradiol levels should not be used for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. There are, also, many types of cancer that are sensitive to the effects of estrogen. Women who are diagnosed with one of these cancers, or who have a strong family history of them should talk seriously with their physician and make sure that they understand the risks before considering hormone therapy.