What is Hormone Replacement Therapy
What is Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is a medication used by women who are suffering the symptoms of menopause. During menopause, our bodies stop producing estrogen, leading to complications for some women, using Hormone therapy to replace the lack of estrogen in our body and alleviate the symptoms and discomfort.
During menopause, women may experience discomfort in the form of hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Some women use Hormone Replacement Therapy to mitigate these symptoms and have them in different formats and delivery methods. If you are looking to avoid these symptoms using HRT, you must first understand the pros and cons to help you decide.
These medications post several risks, and it is best first to understand if it is the proper medication for you. Cases might be different for those going through menstruation, and Hormone Replacement Therapy might not always be suitable for everyone. Understanding the factors first can help us decide if HRT is for us.
Types of Hormone Replacement Therapy
Low-Dose Vaginal Products
Low-dose vaginal products come in different forms, such as cream, tablets, or rings. For those experiencing vaginal or urinary symptoms of menopausal, delivering estrogen in small amounts to your system is used.
Systemic Hormone Therapy
Systematic hormone therapy comes in different forms, such as pills, skin patches, rings, gel, cream, or spray. This type delivers a higher amount of estrogen absorbed by our bodies and can alleviate discomfort to all symptoms caused by menopause.
Women will experience some form of discomfort that comes from menopause or after having a hysterectomy (surgically removing the uterus). Doctors usually prescribe some form of estrogen delivery in low doses. Estrogen may be absorbed in various ways to fit your needs and lifestyle.
Pills are the most common estrogen delivery method for menopause treatment. They come in different forms (Cenestin, Estrace, Estratab, Femtrace, Ogen, and Premarin) or estrogens-bazedoxifene (Duavee). They are usually taken once a day, even without food, but you should always consult a doctor as other forms have a much more complicated dosing schedule.
Patches are applied to your skin to deliver a specific dose of estrogen. While some patches can be worn for a whole week, depending on how much you need, you may require multiple patches replaced every few days. This delivery method utilizes our bloodstream that absorbs the estrogen through the skin. Depending on the brand and type, the placement of these patches may vary.
This delivery method comes in different forms, such as cream, vaginal rings, or vaginal estrogen tablets. These are usually used specifically for those experiencing vaginal symptoms such as vaginal dryness, itchiness, burning, or pain during intercourse. Examples of these are vaginal tablets (Vagifem), creams (Estrace or Premarin), and insertable rings (Estring or Femring). Each type has a different dosing schedule, and it is best to consult with your doctor to know which one fits you.
Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy
Each one of us may experience symptoms of menopause. Some may be on the lighter side, while others may experience severe discomfort that may affect their daily lives. This kind of therapy is a proven method to help women in the following cases caused by menopause.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Hot flashes happen when blood vessels near the skin’s surface widen to cool off, making you break out of work, while night sweats occur at night. They may cause a sudden temperature rise and can cause discomfort for those experiencing it. There are no ways to avoid hot flashes or night sweats after menopause, and HRT is commonly used as a medication to be alleviated discomfort caused by them.
Hormone Replacement Therapy may help you to get better sleep, especially when experiencing symptoms that come with menopause. Reducing or alleviating discomfort and maintaining a good estrogen level in our bodies leads to a better sleep cycle after experiencing menopause.
Reducing Vaginal Dryness or Itchiness
Using a thin layer of fluid, the walls of vaginas are lubricated. Estrogen helps with maintaining this fluid that helps keep the vaginal lining healthy. After menopause, our bodies produce a lower level of estrogen that leads to vaginal dryness. Some might see it as a minor discomfort, but this can lead to a much more significant impact on our reproductive health. At least one out of three women will experience vaginal drying after menopause and become more common later.
Osteoporosis happens when our bones become thinner, causing them to fracture easily. Women will lose up to 10% of their bone mass in the first five years after menopause. The drop in estrogen levels after the menopausal period can lead to lower bone mass density. Besides a high calcium diet, keeping a good estrogen level will also prevent experiencing osteoporosis in women.
Heart Disease Prevention
Although there is no direct link between menopausal to heart complications, certain risk factors increase after a woman goes through it. Heart disease is a risk found in everyone as they age, but women can experience more evident symptoms on the onset of menopause. One in three women may experience these symptoms in the first ten years of their menopause cycle due to the sudden change in their bodies.
Better Sex Experience
Changes in estrogen levels will affect the health of our reproductive organs. Dryness and itchiness will affect how we enjoy our sex life, but we can prevent them by keeping a good estrogen level.
Risk of Hormone Replacement Therapy
While hormone therapy (HT) can assist many women in navigating through menopause, it is not entirely secure. Read the possible risks listed below that you might encounter if you decide to push through in this therapy.
A woman’s hormone balance plays a part in the development of most endometrial cancers. Knowing what type of HRT fits you may factor in developing endometrial cancer, especially if you take estrogen without progestin and still have your uterus. During a woman’s menstrual cycle, the balance between these hormones changes each month. Having a higher estrogen level than progestin may lead to developing this type of cancer and should be appropriately analyzed before undertaking any forms of HRT.
There are no direct links between estrogen taken in Hormone Replacement Therapy to developing blood clots in women. However, women may experience an increased chance of developing blood clots up fourfolds. On average, a woman taking estrogen from HRT is reasonably small. Only one in 300 women who uses HRT may develop blood clots, which may increase with women who already have a history of blood clots or thrombophilia.
Age is the most obvious factor in women that develop breast cancer. About 95% of women who have breast cancer started developing the disease after 40. Although there are a lot of factors such as family history, stress, lifestyle, genetic abnormality (BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation), weight, and abnormal pregnancy, menopause isn’t a direct link to developing it.
However, the drugs used in managing menopause symptoms may increase or decrease one’s chance of developing breast cancer later on. It is unclear if HRT with estrogen, the most common form of medication offered to women that experience symptoms from menopause, increase the chance of developing breast cancer.
Many women that undergo a sudden change in their body after menopause can develop complications with their hearts. During the first ten years after menopause, women’s risk of experiencing stroke doubles. Endogenous estrogen levels decline by 60% during the menopausal transition, leading to relative androgen excess, contributing to the increased cardiovascular risk factors in women. Understanding the proper amount of hormone therapy should be considered to avoid developing risk factors that can lead to stroke for women.
There are ways to avoid these risks associated with Hormone Replacement Therapy. The recommendation is that you start your Hormone Replacement Therapy within ten years of your menopause or before the age of 60. Regular mammograms and pelvic exams can also help take your HRT medication.
You can also ask about the different forms of HRT besides the standard pills. Other options include patches, gels, mists, vaginal creams, vaginal suppositories, or vaginal rings. If your uterus is still present, you may also take progesterone or progestin. If possible, you may also take the lowest dose that will work best for you in the shortest amount of time.
Side effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone Replacement Therapy has many advantages, but it also sometimes comes with adverse effects just like any other drug. It is better to browse the list below to be fully aware and prepared.
Breast Swelling or Tenderness
The tissues found in our breasts may not have a similar response as we undergo Hormone Replacement Therapy. Commonly, breast soreness may happen as we increase the level of estrogen in our bodies during Hormone Replacement Therapy. Although breast swelling or soreness is joint for women undergoing menopause, they usually go away afterward. However, if a woman takes HRT, these side effects might remain.
Women may experience bloating during the premenopausal and menopausal stages due to sudden hormonal balance changes. Still, it usually goes away afterward, but women taking estrogen through Hormone Replacement Therapy might continue experiencing it. Other factors could lead to bloating, including diet, exercise, stress, smoking, and other health conditions. It is best to consult your doctor if bloating occurs during your HRT medication.
Headache and nausea commonly occur during the first part of Hormone Replacement Therapy. Our bodies will undergo a drastic change in hormonal balance during menopause, and the reintroduction of estrogen in our system might cause nausea to some. If you need to increase your dose, prepare to experience these side effects, but they could subside after a few weeks.
Anxiety and depression may occur in women during their premenopausal and menopausal stages. Although Hormone Replacement Therapy alleviates some of the symptoms associated with menopause, there is no direct link yet if it can also help with coping with mood changes. HRT alone may not be enough, and some women experiencing mood changes might require additional help in the form of antidepressants or psychotherapy.
Other forms of menopause Hormone Replacement Therapy may cause bleeding. These include cyclic hormone therapy preparations containing a combination of estrogen and progestin absorbed by our body during HRT medication. Progestin can help protect the uterus from endometrial cancer if you still have your uterus intact. These cases of bleeding can be just as much as menstrual bleeding, and it requires a doctor’s consultation.
Is Hormone Replacement Therapy Safe, and How Can I Decide?
Now you know about Hormone Replacement Therapy, it is advisable to analyze the pros and cons before undertaking any form of HRT. You may consult with your doctor to understand which format will work best for you. As mentioned, each woman may experience symptoms of menopause differently, and HRT may cause more harm if not taken appropriately.
With the help of WebMD, you can make a sounding choice as you go through these questions to help you decide if Hormone Replacement Therapy is for you:
Based on my medical history, is there any reason I shouldn’t use HRT?
Do you think it could help my symptoms, scorching flashes, sleep issues, and vaginal dryness?
Are there other treatments I should consider? (Vaginal moisturizers may help vaginal dryness, for example.)
Do you think I’ll have side effects from HRT? (Do not fail to notify your doctor if you have any issues with taking birth control pills.)
Does my family medical history make me a good or bad candidate for HRT? (If your mom had osteoporosis, HRT would help lower your chances of it. But if your mom had breast cancer, you’d want to talk about that; with your doctor.)
What type of HRT might be best for me?
If these questions are not enough for you to decide, you can always give yourself some time to think. You may also seek advice from your trusted medical aesthetics provider. After all, your decision will significantly affect your lifestyle, so choose the best for yourself.