Estradiol is a medication that contains a form of the hormone estrogen. This is a very powerful hormone, and using topical or oral forms can cause serious side effects, including an increased risk of heart attack, blood clots, endometrial cancer, and breast cancer. Other estradiol side effects include headache, nausea, heartburn, and mood changes. Children should never be exposed to estradiol unless it is prescribed by a medical professional, and care should be taken when topical forms are used to avoid accidentally getting the medication onto other people.
People may use topical or oral forms of estradiol to treat some symptoms associated with the loss of estrogen due to menopause or as a hormonal replacement when the ovaries stop working or are removed. It may also help protect women against osteoporosis. A less common use is during end stage prostate cancer in men or to relieve some symptoms of breast cancer. It is available at various concentrations in tablet form, as a transdermal patch, as a cream, and as a topical spray.
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Most of the guidelines for use of this medication suggest it be used for shortest possible time periods to reduce the chances of developing many of the more serious estradiol side effects. Using this hormone increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, and blood clots in some women, especially if they smoke or have a history of any of these conditions. When used as a hormone replacement, estradiol is sometimes combined with progestin; studies have shown that this combination can increase a woman's risk of breast cancer.
Headache is one of the more common estradiol side effects and may affect up to 20% of people who take it. Other side effects include dizziness, confusion, and problems speaking. Mood changes, including depression and anxiety, can also occur. Because this hormone can affect the cardiovascular system, any chest pain, numbness or weakness on one side of the body, or difficulty breathing could be a sign of a heart attack or stoke. These symptoms should be reported to a healthcare professional immediately.
This hormone, which acts to spur the growth of the female reproductive organs, can cause breast tenderness or pain, as well as increase breast growth in some people. It is often used to relieve vaginal dryness and inflammation, but it may also cause itching and discharge. Some women experience spotting in between periods and other unusual vaginal bleeding and changes in their menstrual cycles. It also increases the risk of yeast infections.
People who use topical estradiol may experience redness or irritation where the medication is applied. Flu-like symptoms, arthritic pain, and hair loss are all relatively common. Many people also report problems with their digestive systems, including stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and bloating.
Certain populations should note a few other estradiol side effects. People who have diabetes and take this medication should monitor blood sugar levels carefully, as these may change. Those who have thyroid disorder should also watch their thyroid levels carefully. Even in people without hypothyroidism, long-term use of estradiol may reduce thyroid hormone levels to below normal readings.
Men and children should not be exposed to estradiol in most cases, as it can cause breast development. Girls who touch this medication may begin puberty prematurely. Pregnant woman should not take estradiol because it can increase a child's risk of developing abnormalities in the urinary and genital systems, as well as certain cancers later in life. It is not clear if this medication is passed to a child through breast milk, so women who are breastfeeding should speak to a medical professional before using it.
There is also some concern about the potential for estradiol to cause dementia, as it has been noted in some older patients who use it. In general, women who are well over menopause are discouraged from using this medication, especially on a long-term basis.