Did you know that an average of 44% of women in menopausal age are taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to manage menopausal symptoms? This means that for every 100 women, 44 of them are on hormone replacement therapy.
What is menopause?
Menopause is a period in a woman’s life where they are no longer viable to reproduce. This period is characterized by a drastic reduction in female sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Women thus experience menopausal symptoms that include hot flashes, especially at night and night sweats, vaginal dryness, irregular periods, and decreased libido.
Other symptoms include migraines, mood swings, breast soreness, hair loss, memory lapses, weight gain, and reduced bone density. In some women, these symptoms may be more severe than in others. The average age for menopause to set in is 40-45 years. However, new research has shown that menopause can set in from an early age of 25 years of age in some ladies.
Types of Hormone Replacement Therapy Treatment
It is advised that women consult their physician or gynecologist before they start on HRT. This will help them analyze the risks versus the benefits of hormone replacement therapy and identify which HRT will best suit their needs.
Systemic Hormone Therapy
The systemic hormone replacement therapy can be administered as a skin patch, pills, injectables, or creams. Systemic HRT drugs are often made as a combination of estrogen and progesterone-like compounds. This combination is beneficial in the mitigation of excessive proliferation of the uterine wall that predisposes individuals to uterine cancer. Systemic HRT is found to be effective against hot flushes and vaginal dryness symptoms in menopausal women.
Estrogen only agents are recommended for women who have had their uterus removed as the risk for the development of uterine cancer is removed. Low estrogen vaginal suppositories are used by women who experience extreme vaginal thinning and dryness. New research has shown that the use of these products protects against osteoporosis and minimizes the chances of contracting urinary tract infection.
What are the benefits of using Hormone Replacement Therapy?
- Reduces the process of osteoporosis and maintains bone integrity, thus prevention of osteoporotic bone fractures.
- There is reduced severity and incidences of hot flashes and night sweats.
- Relief from vaginal dryness and pain experienced during sex.
- Improved quality of life.
- There is a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
- New research has shown that hormone replacement therapy minimizes the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Effective in the reduction of vasomotor symptoms.
- Hormone replacement therapy can be useful in alleviating menopausal mood swings and depression.
- Hormone replacement therapy has a positive effect on registering skin elasticity by stimulating collagen production.
- Reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer and Alzheimer’s disease in women.
What are the risks associated with hormone replacement therapy?
Despite the numerous health benefits of hormone replacement therapy, there are several risks associated with hormone replacement therapy which include:
- There is a risk of developing endometrial or uterine cancer, primarily when the HRT used is the estrogen-only pill. The use of hormone replacement for long periods of over five years may predispose an individual to develop uterine cancer.
- There is an increased probability of developing gall stones.
- The hormone used in HRT can propagate blood clots’ development, which may cause a stroke or myocardial infarction. Hormone replacement therapy worsens a case of varicose veins as they may facilitate the formation of blood clots in legs.
- If the HRT is initiated ten years after the onset of menopause, it may exacerbate dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- For women on HRT that comprise of estrogen-only pills for more than seven years, risk developing breast cancer.
Therefore, HRT is recommended for use in women who are:
- Experiencing extreme conditions of hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
- Women who are can not tolerate other bone-enhancement medications and have lost a considerable amount of bone density due to menopause.
- Women experiencing a case of premature ovarian insufficiency or those with early onset of menopause.
Hormone replacement therapy is contraindicated in:
Women that are genetically predisposed to ovarian or breast cancer. Women that are having endometriosis or those that are at risk of developing endometrial cancer. Women experiencing blood clot issues or had a previous history with blood clots in their legs (varicose veins).
What is the take-home message?
Hormone replacement therapy is a time-sensitive treatment that is associated with many risks and benefits. HRT is individualized treatment, what will work for your friend will most definitely not work on you. Before enrolling in any HRT, it is essential to have gynecology consult to decide on the best therapy suitable for your needs.
If you would like to know more about hormone replacement therapy or for any inquiries on hormone replacement therapy, call us today on (205) 352-9141.