Hormone Replacement Therapy Information
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Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a medication which contains a single or numerous female hormones. Typically the hormone estrogen and a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone, called progestin, are used.
Menopausal women can take hormone therapy involving estrogen only, known as estrogen replacement therapy (ERT). This is common with women that have had their uterus removed.
HRT when taken by women reduces their menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, decreased libido and poor sleep. The drug comes in a variety of forms, patches, vaginal creams or pills.
After taking this hormone treatment women often feel the benefits after a couple of weeks or so. Currently, the use of such medication for a short-term period of 2-4 years is said to be safe.
HRT has been seen to increase various undesirable health problems. Heart attacks, strokes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer (aggravated by estrogen only), endometrial/ uterine cancer, gallbladder disease, blood clotting, acute liver disease, pancreatic disease and PMS-type symptoms (e.g. breast tenderness and pain) have been seen to increase due to the increased levels of estrogen and progestin. Smaller associated risks are for example migraine headaches, epilepsy and hypertension, fluid retention and depression to name but a few.
The Women’s Health Institute (WHI) has undergone scientific trial that have shown the beneficial protective effect on menopausal women’s bones is outweighed by the negative effects of HRT related health issues stated previously.
When starting a course of HRT your provider of health care may deem it necessary for you to sample a number of different regimes in order to locate one that works best.
‘Continuous’ combined therapy involves both estrogen and progestin being taken each day. Irregular bleeding can occur when starting this medication, or transferring to this regime from another course of medication, e.g. cyclic hormone therapy (see below).
‘Cyclic’ hormone therapy is often advised. Here, estrogen is taken in the form of a pill for a 25 day period. Progestin is included during days 10-14 typically. For the next 25 days both hormones are administered. Afterwards there is a small break in hormone taking of 3-5 days, subsequently the process starts afresh. Monthly bleeding takes place.
Vaginal cream contains estrogen and aids vaginal dryness. This type of medication is usually taken in addition to the other anti-menopause symptom therapies since it tends not to reduce other major menopausal symptoms or aid bone strength.
Patches applied to a woman’s thighs or abdomen enable estrogen to be absorbed in to their blood stream, sometimes a preferred method to taking pills.
Other medications can additionally be supplied to those women who have a greater degree of menopausal symptoms. The same can be said for individuals suffering from osteoporosis and heart disease. Estrogen combined with the male hormone androgen can be provided to reduce extreme hot flashes.
Remember, when taking HRT you should also be exercising regularly and eating healthily so as to maintain strong bones and a healthy heart.
HRT use should be accompanied by regular health checkups with your local health provider.