As we age, our bodies go through a variety of changes. While hormonal changes as we age are normal, that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. These hormonal changes are inconvenient and uncomfortable, but there is a treatment that can help.
Why would you need hormone replacement therapy?
There are quite a few reasons women need hormone replacement therapy. The most common is menopause.
Menopause happens to women when they age. Typically, women experience menopause in or around their forties. But this isn’t always the case because everyone’s body is different’
You can experience menopause later, or you can have early menopause. During menopause, your body starts producing less estrogen.
Women’s health largely depends on estrogen, so when it declines, a woman will experience night sweats, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness, among other symptoms.
Hormone replacement therapy can help restore estrogen levels and help you deal with your menopause symptoms.
What is it?
Hormone replacement therapy is a type of medication containing female hormones. The main purpose of this type of medication is to replace or to put estrogen in your body. Sometimes the medication contains just estrogen, but it can also contain both estrogen and progesterone.
There are two main types of female hormone replacement therapy: systemic and low-dose.
- Systemic Hormone Replacement Therapy-With this version of therapy, you can take hormones in the form of a gel, pill, skin patch, or cream. If you have been experiencing severe menopause symptoms like hot flashes, then this is usually the type of therapy you will receive. The hormone dose is higher and absorbed through your entire body.
- Low-Dose Therapy- This version of therapy comes in the form of cream, or a tablet. Your body absorbs a small amount of the hormone. Low-dose hormone replacement therapy products treat the vaginal side effects of menopause like vaginal dryness and pain with intercourse.
What are the risks?
Like with most treatments, there are risks. If you are healthy, hormone replacement therapy will be beneficial. But if you are not healthy or have a history of the following medical problems, you should examine alternatives.
Three factors will decide whether hormone replacement will be beneficial or dangerous for you; age, type of therapy, and your medical history.
- Medical History: Not only does your medical history factor into whether you should take hormone replacement therapy but your family history as well. If you or your family have a history of blood clots, stroke, hypertension, or liver disease hormone replacement therapy may not be for you.
- Age: Your age makes a difference because depending on how old you are, your level of risk changes. If you start hormone therapy at 60 or older or more than 10 years after you started menopause, you are at a greater risk for stroke, blood clots, hypertension, and breast cancer. But if you start hormone therapy earlier, it seems to be before for you.
- Therapy Type: Your doctor may prescribe estrogen on its own or with progestin. This can make a difference in your risk level.
Usually, if you are deficient in estrogen but still have your uterus, you will need to take two women’s hormones, estrogen, and progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone the ovaries release. When there is a change in this hormone, it can change your menopausal symptoms.
If the estrogen in your body is not balanced with progesterone, estrogen can cause the lining in your uterus to grow and cause endometrial cancer. This is another risk, but only if you still have your uterus.
Are there alternatives?
If your doctor tells you, you shouldn’t take hormonal therapy, there are other things you can do. You can try to take the lowest dosage available to help with your symptoms.
If this too is not an option, lifestyle changes can help manage your menopausal symptoms. Theses changes include:
- Limit Caffeine Intake
- Limit Alcohol
- Avoid Spicy Food
- Use a fan
- Reduce Stress
Hormone Replacement Therapy has its risks, but it also has its benefits. The best way to determine whether HRT would be a good fit for you, is to schedule an appointment.