FSH, a male hormone produced by the pituitary gland, is responsible for the production of estrogen and progesterone.
When the level of FSH rises, it may also signal an early menopause in women, particularly in those with a family history of it.
High FSH levels can also mean poor reproductive reserve, also called premature ovarian failure or premenopausal women’s infertility. In this case, you either have very few viable eggs left in your ovaries, or compromised development or recruitment of these eggs into the fallopian tubes. In most cases, infertility can be treated by discontinuing the use of hormonal contraceptives, but it can sometimes be difficult to determine how much FSH is being produced. In some cases, FSH is only a symptom of other problems in female reproduction.
As the symptoms of menopause worsen, many women with an abnormal FSH level are diagnosed with primary amenorrhoea (pains during sexual intercourse), especially if their menstrual cycles are erratic. In these women, irregularity in menstrual cycles can indicate a more serious problem, such as ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg has implanted itself outside of the uterus, usually on the fallopian tube.
Fertility drugs can help reduce FSH and prevent or alleviate the effects of secondary amenorrhoea, but in most cases the drug treatment doesn’t correct the cause of the condition. Fertility drugs must be taken indefinitely, however, as the body is able to adjust to the presence of FSH. Sometimes, they have no effect at all.
Another possible cause of reproductive issues is the presence of endometriosis.
Women with endometriosis may experience complications such as infertility due to a lack of menstrual flow, pelvic pain, infertility due to the implantation of cysts, or complications related to the removal of fibroids from the uterus. Endometriosis may also occur as a result of other conditions in the uterus such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or endometrial mass. Women with PCOS have abnormalities in the cells that produce progesterone, and endometriosis is the result of these abnormal cells growing in the uterine lining.
If FSH is the only indicator of endometriosis, women with this condition will have difficulty becoming pregnant because their bodies do not produce the FSH needed to trigger ovulation. Endometriosis itself is often treatable through surgery, although it is still possible to become pregnant without medical intervention. In rare cases, FSH may signal another condition that may require more complex diagnosis, but this is the easiest way to get a diagnosis.
Other causes of an abnormal FSH level may be a hormone imbalance in women’s bodies, such as hyperthyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much FSH. The pituitary gland produces too little FSH. In this case, hormonal treatments are not necessary. However, many women take hormone replacement therapy, a form of therapy called HRT, to correct the hormonal balance in their body.
Some experts believe that our changing diets and a lack of exercise are partially to blame for the fact that many of us are going through menopause and for the low quality food choices we make. Although low quality food choices can contribute to our health problems, FSH may be a factor in a lot of them.
Many experts think that high estrogen levels may be the cause of endometrial cancer, since the growth of abnormal cells and tissue occur when FSH is produced at a normal rate.
A study by the National Cancer Institute suggests that some types of ovarian cancer may be linked to the presence of FSH, particularly adenocarcinomas. an abnormally large growth that develops in the inner wall of the uterus. Women who suffer from adenocarcinoma have abnormal FSH levels, and their cancers develop when the growth of the cancer cells begins to accelerate rapidly.
Tumors are not the only problem with FSH. The hormone may also be associated with enlarged prostate (BPH). tumors in men also may have irregular or excessive production of FSH. They may occur when the prostate gland produces too much or too little FSH. Men should talk to their doctor about prostate health and BPH.
These are the most common reasons for FSH, but there are other conditions that can cause high FSH levels as well. Some of the more unusual conditions are not well understood. When there are concerns for high or irregular FSH, a woman should consult her physician for an examination to make sure she is not having an underlying condition, so that treatment can be aimed to address the root cause of the problem.