[Gr. oistros, mad desire + gennan, to produce]
Any natural or artificial substance that induces estrus and the development of female sex characteristics; more specifically, the estrogenic hormones produced by the ovary; the female sex hormones. Estrogens are secreted by the ovaries and the placenta in women and by the adrenal cortex in both sexes. Estrogens are responsible for cyclic changes in the vaginal epithelium and endometrium of the uterus. Natural estrogens include estradiol, estrone, and their metabolic product, estriol. When used therapeutically, estrogens are usually given in the form of a conjugate such as ethinyl estradiol, conjugated estrogens, or the synthetic estrogenic substance diethylstilbestrol. These preparations are effective when given by mouth.
Estrogens provide a satisfactory replacement hormone for treating menopausal symptoms and for reducing the risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women. It is important to observe patients closely for any malignant changes in the breast or endometrium. Estrogen should be administered intermittently and in the lowest effective dose.
SYN: SEE: estrogenic hormone
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