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You may have heard of hormone replacement therapy as a way to treat the symptoms of menopause. While this may be true, there is a lot more to this course of treatment that you should be aware of before deciding whether it is the appropriate choice for you.
What is Menopause and How Will it Affect Me?
Menopause describes the natural aging process of women as natural hormone levels drop, eventually resulting in the end of a woman’s fertility. Menopause can bring about any combination of the following symptoms:
- Hot flashes/night sweats
- Bone thinning (osteoporosis)
- Vaginal dryness
- Urinary problems
- Thinning hair
- Irregular periods
- Lowered fertility
- Sleep problems
- Smaller breasts
- Increase in belly fat
- Trouble concentrating
- Memory issues
- Sagging/wrinkled skin
Not everyone will experience menopause in the same way or with the same symptoms. Each person is unique and will experience their own set of potentially uncomfortable side effects.
Can Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Cure These Symptoms?
Unfortunately, HRT is not a cure-all and cannot prevent natural aging. However, it has been known to ease the symptoms for many women who are going through menopause. Some of the most unpleasant symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and moodiness have been shown to greatly improve with hormone therapy. HRT has also been proven to slow or even stop bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis.
Are There Any Negative Side Effects of HRT?
It was previously believed that hormone therapy could cause cancer due to studies published in 2002 and 2003. The specific types of cancer it could allegedly cause included endometrial, ovarian, and breast cancer. After the publication of these studies, the use of HRT dropped significantly.
However, recent research has failed to support these findings, noting that the potential increase was so minimal (one extra case of breast cancer in 1,000 women studied) that it was not strong enough evidence to prove a link between HRT and cancer. Some researchers theorize that there is a greater risk of breast cancer when hormone therapy is used for a period of more than 5 years.
Additional Health and Wellness Benefits of HRT
Hormone Replacement Therapy could:
- Reduce the risk of heart attack and heart failure
- Lower the rate of mortality for younger postmenopausal women
- Improve muscle function
- Prevent skin aging
According to experts, the positive health benefits outweigh the potential risks, but it is important to thoroughly discuss the idea of HRT with your doctor.
There is an Increased Risk for Some Patients
Hormone Therapy may not be safe for everyone. Anyone with the following conditions may be at a higher risk for negative effects:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Blood clots
- Breast, endometrial, or ovarian cancer
If you have a history of any of these health problems, greater caution should be taken when considering HRT. As always, you should discuss your complete medical history with your doctor before beginning any kind of hormone therapy.
Types of Hormone Replacement Therapy
Not every HRT program is the same. The best course of treatment will be designed on a per-patient basis, taking into consideration the symptoms to be addressed and the medical history of the patient. The most common types are:
- Estrogen Only. Some patients only need estrogen because they have had a complete hysterectomy (uterus and ovaries have been removed). The progesterone part of hormone therapy targets the organs that are no longer a problem for such a patient.
- Cyclical or Sequential. Most women experience premenopausal symptoms such as irregular periods, heavy periods, and some of the typical symptoms of later menopause. This type of therapy, including estrogen and progesterone, can help to regulate a woman’s cycle.
- Continuous. During menopause a woman can take a continuous dose of both estrogen and progesterone to ease common symptoms.
- Long-Cycle. Although not generally recommended due to questionable safety, this type of HRT causes period-like bleeding every 3 months.
- Local Estrogen. This type of hormone therapy is directly applied to the vagina in the form of cream, rings, or tablets. The main benefit of these treatments is vaginal lubrication to ease dryness or irritation.
You and your doctor should discuss your symptoms and medical history to determine the best type of hormone therapy for you.
To learn more about hormone replacement therapy: https://coremedicalwellness.com/services/mens-and-womens-health/
Visit Core Medical & Wellness to Discuss your HRT Options
Core Medical & Wellness provides a wide range of services to improve each patient’s overall health and well-being. If you’re considering hormone replacement therapy or wondering if it may be right for you, call Core Medical & Wellness at (888) 521-0688. You can also request a call here and someone will contact you at your preferred time and number.
Dr. Richard Kang is double board certified in anesthesiology and pain medicine, and he completed an interventional pain medicine fellowship at the prestigious New York Presbyterian Hospital / Columbia University – College of Physicians and Surgeons. Read his full bio here.