From the time we hit puberty, our bodies begin producing hormones that encourage the development of muscle and bones in addition to being instrumental in the development of our genitalia. In women, this primarily involves the production of estrogen, while men experience a steady production of testosterone. As people reach their 50s and beyond, the amount of testosterone or estrogen that the body produces drops significantly. This is why women are especially prone to bone degeneration, mood swings, inhibited sex drives, breast tenderness, and depression. Men also experience an inhibited sex drive as well as erectile dysfunction when their body stops producing sufficient levels of testosterone. Additionally, senior men will also stop growing facial hair, lose lean muscle mass, suffer from metabolic syndrome, and they will also suffer from depression. While the reduction in hormone production is a natural occurrence for everyone, hormone replacement therapy can restore a healthier balance.
Hormone replacement therapy is the process of increasing the number of natural hormones in your body, so it doesn’t involve the use of drugs. This means the side effects are lower than other treatments that might be used to alleviate your symptoms. You shouldn’t expect treatments to completely replace the number of missing hormones in your body as the name suggests. Rather, the process involves administering gradual doses of hormones over time until the symptoms of hormone deficiency are reduced or eliminated.
This means you’ll have to undergo several treatments over the course of time, and it may take several weeks before you observe a positive change in your body. Your doctor will examine your health and discuss your need for HRT treatments, so you will have a full understanding of the process before you get started. The treatments are usually received via intravenous injection, but they can also be administered via a topical gel or patch. While injections are administered every two or three weeks, the gel is rubbed into the skin of the shoulders, arms, or abdomen on a daily basis. When using the patch, a new patch should be applied each day. Just as you would do with a nicotine patch, the testosterone patch is adhered to the arms, back, abdomen, or buttocks and the site of the patch should be changed each day.
What Are the Benefits and Risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy?
While the reason for taking HRT treatments is similar for both men and women, the effects or benefits of the treatments do vary. For men, testosterone replacement therapy reduces risks for erectile dysfunction in addition to restoring libido. It also helps the body rebuild lean muscle mass, restores red blood cell counts, and helps reinforce bone density and strength. For women, the primary benefits of estrogen therapy include treating the hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness that accompanies menopause. Additionally, estrogen replacement therapy helps reduce the risks of bone and tooth loss, which lowers the risks of developing osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. HRT also helps women lower their risks for developing colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and joint pain.
The risks of HRT are also varied depending on the gender and age of the individual. In general, men experience fewer serious risks to their health with the most common adverse effects of treatment including fluid retention, increased urination, and acne outbreaks. They may also experience increased breast size, testicle shrinkage, high cholesterol, lower sperm counts that may lead to infertility, and a worsening of pre-existing sleep apnea. In general, estrogen replacement therapy increases the risks of women developing gall bladder or gall stone problems.
There’s also evidence to suggest women starting HRT after having been in post-menopause for more than 10 years have a higher risk for dementia. Women who still have their uterus increase the risks of developing endometrial cancer unless they take progestin alongside their estrogen treatments. There is also an increased risk for blood clots and stroke, but those risks can be lowered by starting HRT treatments within five years of the onset of menopause. The risks for blood clots may be further reduced by taking HRT treatments via the patch instead of taking the injections. Each individual will experience these risks to a different degree, so it’s important to discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider.
If you think you’re experiencing a decrease of hormone production, call us at 205-352-9141. We can help you identify the cause of your symptoms and begin the hormone replacement therapy that’s ideal for your situation. Rather than living with the symptoms that are inhibiting your quality of life, let us help you feel happier and healthier.