Estrogen and estradiol preparations have been used to treat various disease conditions caused by low blood levels of estradiol.
Some of the uses of estradiol as a medication include:
Estradiol as hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
During the menopause or after surgical removal of the ovaries there is a sharp decline in the blood level of estradiol. This can cause several severe side effects including hot flushes, vaginal dryness, abnormal vaginal bleeding and pain and itching around the vagina, especially during sexual intercourse.
This fall in estradiol can also lead to depression, anxiety, mood swings and irritability. To counteract these effects, hormone replacement therapy is often prescribed. This therapy, which is usually a combination of estradiol and progesterone, restores the hormone levels and helps to ease symptoms.
Estradiol is also used during infertility treatment, to help ensure the cervical mucus is sperm friendly and to prepare the womb lining for implantation.
As a contraceptive
Estradiol is a component of the combined oral contraceptive pill, along with progesterone. This medication is used for birth control as well as to treat disorders such as menorrhagia, irregular menstruation and polycystic ovary disease (PCOD).
Transgender hormone therapy
Among male-to-female transsexuals, estradiol is administered to maintain female characteristics.
While hypoestrogenic conditions can be treated by administering estradiol, there are also several conditions that are exacerbated by increased estradiol. For example, some forms of breast cancer are estrogen dependent and drugs are used to block the effects of estradiol. Some of these include:
- Gonadotropin-releasing factor agonists (GnRH agonists) that prevent estradiol production. Examples include leuprolide and buserelin.
- Aromatase inhibitors that block the conversion to estradiol through aromatization. Examples include letrozole and anastrozole
- Estrogen antagonists that block the effects of estrogens. An example is Tamoxifen
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc