Most people understand that testosterone is critical for men’s development and lifelong health. The impact of estrogen, however, is often overlooked, potentially leading you to struggle with disruptive symptoms without understanding their source.
Both testosterone and estrogen have widespread influence on tissues and processes throughout the human body. Only through understanding the broad reach and profound influence of these powerful chemicals can you appreciate the danger that may be underlying high estrogen symptoms in men. What’s more, recognizing the signs and seeking treatment is essential to restoring balance and protecting yourself from the serious consequences that can occur over time.
Symptoms of High Estrogen in Men
Testosterone affects your sexual development, physique, and even your personality. But testosterone is not the only hormone that shapes your emotional and physical experience. Under normal conditions, a portion of a man’s testosterone is chemically converted to estradiol, a form of estrogen, by the enzyme aromatase in various tissues. Both testosterone and estrogen have significant roles to play in keeping your mind and body operating at peak performance. Indeed, their interplay is important at every stage of development and throughout life.
The causes of high estrogen in men may be complex and related to a variety of conditions. For some, it is related to age, as estrogen levels rise naturally with time. In others, obesity may play a role; since body fat contains aromatase, the additional fat leads to increased conversion of testosterone to estrogen. Higher estrogen levels may also be caused by a number of prescription drugs, including some antibiotics and psychoactive medications. It has been associated with the use of supplements containing phytoestrogens and with recreational drugs like marijuana. Adrenal tumors may also result in elevated estrogen. Additionally, testosterone replacement therapy may increase estrogen levels through aromatase conversion.
Regardless of the cause, high estrogen can lead to a broad spectrum of symptoms, including:
- Erectile dysfuntion. Erectile function involves coordination between the nervous, vascular, and endocrine (hormonal) systems. While typically related to cardiovascular conditions, psychological issues, prescription medications, testosterone-estradiol imbalance can cause or contribute to erectile dysfunction.
- Gynecomastia. Gynecomastia is the benign enlargement of glandular breast tissue, which may cause tenderness and can have a number of causes. One of these is high estrogen, which may be paired with low testosterone and androgen resistance.
- Infertility. Like testosterone, estrogen is involved in spermatogenesis, the production of sperm, and hormonal balance is necessary for adequate quantities and good quality sperm. Elevated estrogen levels can disrupt this balance and lead to infertility.
Behind the Scenes and Under the Surface
In addition to the outward and recognizable symptoms, elevated estrogen levels in men can create other health problems that are not quite as obvious or as immediate or easy to see. Over time, unchecked high estrogen levels in men can lead to serious and possibly deadly conditions. Significantly, higher estrogen levels in men are associated with higher levels of inflammation and been linked to dementia, depression, cancer, diabetes, and the formation of blood clots which may lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Estrogen may have a protective effect on the female brain, but it could have a very different impact on males. Although inconsistent, some studies have found that high estrogen is associated with dementia in older men. It is also associated with depression; a 2018 research study examining the connection between obesity and depression noted an increase in depressive symptoms in men with higher estrogen levels regardless of body mass index (BMI). Although the study did not establish a definitive causal relationship, the association is intriguing.
When it comes to cancer, the evidence is more clear. Though breast cancer in males accounts for just 1-2% of the total breast cancers diagnosed, high estrogen levels are a predisposing factor for men. Additionally, evidence suggests that estrogen is a causative agent in prostate cancer, possibly due to chronic inflammation. Estrogen may also be implicated in the benign enlargement of the prostate that occurs commonly as men age and can cause urinary symptoms like weak urine stream, urgency, and getting up to urinate more frequently through the night. Maintaining the proper testosterone to estrogen ratio may be protective against prostate cancer as well as benign prostate disease.
One of the most dangerous results of a high estrogen level is the increased tendency to form blood clots. This condition is not usually evident until a clot occurs, and by that time it may be too late; estradiol-related blood clots may cause catastrophic strokes and heart attacks resulting in permanent disability or even death.
Treatment Options That Address the Underlying Cause
Treating high estrogen symptoms in men involves the careful balancing of a complex hormonal system. Though your initial goal may be symptom relief, addressing the underlying causes is likely to be a more proactive and sustainable course of action. A practitioner who specializes in hormone health can help you put together the pieces of your hormonal puzzle in a way that alleviates your uncomfortable symptoms and protects your long-term health. With expert analysis and careful monitoring, a specialist can restore both your good health and your peace of mind.
After taking a thorough history and noting all relevant symptoms, your provider will order a range of lab tests to determine your exact hormonal landscape. Your healthcare provider will strive to understand your treatment goals and to assess your overall health and hormonal profile. If your baseline hormone levels warrant it, hormone replacement therapy or other treatments may be suggested to correct imbalances and put you on a path to greater comfort and better overall health. Your provider can also make lifestyle recommendations, including nutrition, physical activity, and supplementation strategies, to support balance and optimize treatment outcomes.
Whether your goal is to regain sexual function, enhance your emotional well-being, or to prevent potentially serious health problems in the future, addressing hormone imbalance is the key. If the root of your problem starts with a low testosterone level, there are many forms of hormone replacement designed to deliver supplementary testosterone in a way that suits your lifestyle. These include injections, topical creams and gels, oral pills and lozenges, and implantable pellets. If the cause of your imbalance is the excessive conversion of testosterone to estrogen, your practitioner may prescribe an aromatase inhibitor to limit its conversion.
Restoring Hormonal Balance
The importance of hormonal balance in men cannot be overstated. For every symptom that is felt, there may be several changes occurring below the surface. By addressing the underlying cause, a hormone health specialist can help you to address outward symptoms and safeguard your health from those dangerous changes. With the profound impact of hormones on the body, it is clear that correcting hormone levels and ensuring proper ratios can have a protective effect, preserving physical function and extending quality of life.
If you suspect a hormone imbalance is at the root of your discomfort, BodyLogicMD can help. The BodyLogicMD network is comprised of top medical professionals specializing in hormone health. A BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioner can assess your hormone balance and design a personalized treatment plan to help you achieve your health goals using the best therapies available today. Contact a local practitioner to schedule your first appointment, or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz today.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.