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During menopause levels of hormone estrogen decline and cause a wide range of symptoms that women experience as they’re going through the change.
When menopause occurs, the number of ovarian follicles declines and ovaries are less responsive to luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) both of which are involved in reproduction.
As ovaries release fewer amounts hormones, FSH and LH can’t regulate estrogen and progesterone properly.
A major decline in estrogen levels and these changes in the regulation of hormones can affect a woman’s health and for some ladies, hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) is a viable solution.
What is HRT and is it the right solution for you? Scroll down to find out.
What is HRT?
Hormone replacement therapy is a government-approved treatment for menopause symptoms relief.
The therapy uses hormones estrogen and progesterone to make up for declined production and thus prevent or decrease the intensity of symptoms that occur when levels of these hormones drop.
The therapy is primarily used to address vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, but it can also reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Types of HRT and administration
Hormone therapy for menopausal women can be categorized into different types and there are multiple routes of administration.
All HRT combinations can be divided into two main types:
- Estrogen-only therapy or ET: The hormone that has a number of functions in a woman’s body. It is the depletion in estrogen production that induces most common symptoms of menopause. ET is usually recommended to women without a uterus after they’ve undergone hysterectomy
- Estrogen + progesterone therapy or EPT: Combination of the two hormones is most commonly used a type of HRT among menopausal women. Progesterone is added into the treatment with the purpose of protecting women with uterus from endometrial cancer from estrogen alone
Two administration routes of HRT include systemic and non-systemic or local products. Systemic hormone therapy is considered the most effective treatment for relief of night sweats and hot flashes.
Basically, the product circulates through the bloodstream and reaches every organ in your body. Systemic products are available in different forms such as:
- Oral tablet
These products can be used for the treatment of vasomotor symptoms, prevention of osteoporosis, and they could also tackle changes affecting vagina (dryness, painful sex).
It is important to mention that symptoms affecting vagina are primarily treated with non-systemic products.
Non-systemic products affect only localized areas of the body.
They are also referred to as low-dose vaginal products because their purpose is to alleviate dryness, vaginal atrophy, and help women have a pleasurable intercourse.
In addition, they can relieve urinary tract infections and frequent urination, common symptoms of menopause. Bear in mind that non-systemic products aren’t formulated to address vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats.
These products come in the form of:
- Vaginal tablet
Do I need HRT?
Administration of hormone replacement therapy can be of huge help for menopausal women, but not every lady needs it.
The best candidates for HRT are women who are:
- Going through early menopause, especially when it occurs after surgical procedures such as ovarian removal
- Dealing with moderate-to-severe hot flashes and night sweats
- Younger than 60 and within 10 years of the onset of menopause
- Experiencing bladder symptoms such as incontinence (in many cases HRT can help here)
Whether you should undergo HRT or not depends on your health, the severity of symptoms, age, and other factors. The best thing to do is to consult your doctor and ask whether he/she would recommend it to you.
Who shouldn’t take HRT?
Although HRT can be of huge help, it’s not the ideal solution for some women. For example, Hormone replacement therapy may not be suitable for ladies with a history of:
- Heart disease
- Severe migraines
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure
- Breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer
- Thrombosis or blood clots
- Liver disease
What are the benefits of HRT?
Hormone therapy is a common solution for women whose health and quality of life suffer due to symptoms of menopause.
When it comes to hot flashes, night sweats, and other changes that occur at this time, their severity varies from one woman to another.
While some ladies have mild hot flashes, others deal with severe periods of extreme hotness even when they are trying to fall asleep.
The HRT has important benefits, such as:
- Decreased intensity of hot flashes and night sweats
- Better sleep
- Improved focus and concentration
- More energy
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis
A study from the journal Neurology discovered that postmenopausal estrogen-based hormone therapy lasting longer than 10 years was strongly associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists explain that protective benefits of hormone therapy depend on its timing and when it is initiated at the time of menopause when neurons are still healthy and responsive, it benefits a woman’s cognitive health.
What are the risks and side effects of HRT?
Every therapy comes with both benefits and risks, and hormone therapy for menopause is not an exception. Now that we’ve covered benefits, it’s time to discuss risks of this treatment.
Truth be told, we are swamped with all sorts of stories about risks of HRT, but not all of them are accurate.
Studies show that HRT is associated with increased risk of breast cancer. That being said, the risk of this common disease depends on a body mass and clinical characteristic of the tumors.
It is also important to mention that estrogen-only hormone therapy has a little or no impact on breast cancer risk
Other potential risks of HRT include a higher risk of:
- Heart disease
- Blood clots
The risks of HRT were higher for women over the age of 60.
Potential side effects of hormone therapy include bloating, breast swelling and tenderness, mood changes, headaches, nausea, and vaginal bleeding in some cases.
Should I take HRT?
Scientists say that benefits of hormone therapy in menopause outweigh the risks.
Contrary to the popular belief, the use of HRT isn’t associated with premature death according to a study from the JAMA.
One thing is for sure, there is a lot we have to learn about HRT and more studies are necessary to address common concerns of worried women who can’t decide whether they should use hormone therapy solutions or not.
Don’t make rash decisions.
Instead, talk about it with your doctor, ask all questions you have, and evaluate pros and cons before you determine whether it is the right option for you.
Hormone replacement therapy is a common solution for menopausal women who experience moderate-to-severe hot flashes and night sweats.
Different types and administration options are available. The therapy has both good and bad sides, like any other, but it is also a victim of many misconceptions.
The best thing to do is to consult your healthcare provider prior to making a decision about starting with this therapy.
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