If you are experiencing the inconvenient symptoms that come with menopause, you are not alone. The American Journal of Medicine found that around 85% of people entering menopause experience symptoms.
Once you enter the menopausal stage, you can experience hot flashes and night sweats. Sometimes, these symptoms are so severe that people seek to treat them using hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Much like any medical treatment, there are benefits and risks that you need to know before going using HRT. Here is some background information about therapy treatment and how it could affect your health.
What Is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Women commonly experience menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. At this time, the body stops preparing for pregnancy. Your ovaries will no longer release eggs, and your body will gradually decrease the amount of estrogen and progesterone it produces.
Once these levels get low enough, your periods will stop. Then, you could start experiencing menopausal symptoms.
These symptoms include hot flashes, vaginal dryness or discomfort, sleep problems, mood swings, and muscle and joint issues. When these symptoms become severe, many people turn to hormone replacement therapy.
HRT is the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms. This therapy involves medication that replaces the estrogen your body stopped producing during menopause.
Most hormone replacement therapies increase your estrogen levels but also your progesterone levels. People who have uteruses need progesterone to counterbalance the effect that estrogen has on the uterus.
Too much estrogen can cause uterine lining growth, which can lead to an increased risk of endometrial cancer. If you have gotten your uterus removed, your doctor will likely not recommend taking progesterone.
History of Hormone Replacement Therapy
HRT became available in the 1940s, but it didn’t take off until the 1960s. However, by the late 1990s, the Women’s Health Initiative and the Million Women Study conducted their respective studies in the United States and the United Kingdom to see if there were risks that came with taking HRT.
They found that there was a chance of heart disease and breast cancer when taking the estrogen-producing medication. Since then, scientists have done more research and found ways to decrease the risk that comes with doing HRT.
Types of HRT
Systemic hormone therapy and low-dose vaginal products are the two forms of hormone replacement therapy.
Systemic hormone therapy treats common and severe menopause symptoms. It contains a high-dosage of estrogen and comes in many different forms.
The most common option is the pill. However, you can also use gels, patches, and sprays to treat your menopausal symptoms.
Low-dosage vaginal products are meant for less severe symptoms, as it comes in a lower dosage than system hormone therapy. The estrogen will enter your vagina in the form of a tablet, ring, or cream.
The FDA has approved most hormone replacement therapy options. There is also bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. You can ask your doctor about this form of hormone therapy, which has natural properties that will help relieve many of the problems that come with menopause.
When your body stops producing estrogen, you are more susceptible to getting osteoporosis. HRT reduces the risk of bone loss and the likelihood of getting fractures.
It prevents you from getting reoccurring urinary tract infections, as HRT helps produce bacteria that will fight this infection. Additionally, it reduces the risk of diabetes.
Risks and Side Effects
There are a handful of side effects and risks that come with taking HRT — specifically a medication with estrogen and progesterone. However, these risks vary with age, family health conditions, and the kind of treatment you are on. You and your doctor must work out a treatment suited specifically for your body.
The side effects of HRT include fluid retention, tender breasts, and menstrual spotting/bleeding. It should not cause you to gain weight.
The first risk of doing HRT is heart disease, mostly for those who are 60 or older or who have been postmenopausal for 10+ years. There is also an increased chance of having a stroke.
People who are obese or have severe varicose veins are at higher risk for blood clots. If you’re between the ages of 50 and 60 and you are taking a tablet for a short time, you have a 1-2 in 1,000 chance of getting blood blots.
The risk of getting breast cancer from HRT is 1 in 1,000. However, if you have a family member who has had breast cancer, you might want to consider an alternate option for treating your menopausal symptoms.
As time goes on, researchers will continue to learn more about hormone replacement therapies and the best way to treat people using them, which is why it is so important to check in with your doctor regularly. It is also essential that you talk to your doctor because you want to be on the lowest dosage of HRT possible for the shortest amount of time possible.
There are some actions you can take to reduce your chances of having health problems caused by HRT. You need to use products that work for you and also have appropriate amounts of estrogen.
Doctors recommend that you only stay on HRT for five years or less. Any more time will increase your risk of the health problems listed above. If you are still having problems after five years, talk to your doctor about a safe way to extend your HRT plan.
Follow up with your doctor consistently and get your annual mammogram and pelvic exams. They will help catch any health risks that could affect your hormone replacement therapy or could be caused by it.
Trying your best to live a healthy lifestyle will prevent these risks from increasing during your time on HRT. Maintaining a balanced diet, reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake, and refraining from smoking are all positive steps you can take to reduce your chances of experiencing the potentially negative effects of HRT.
Who Benefits From Hormone Therapy?
The most common symptom of menopause is hot flashes, and for people with severe ones, HRT is going to be of benefit to them. The same goes for people younger than 45 who have early onset menopause and those who have had their ovaries removed, as HRT is going to help increase their estrogen levels.
While this isn’t the first option doctors use for treating osteoporosis, systemic hormone therapy will help strengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis. People who are concerned about their bone strength might want to consider asking their doctor about HRT.
Is HRT Right for You?
If you are menopausal and are having severe symptoms, it might be best for you to think about using hormone replacement therapy. Talk to your doctor so that you can get treated in a way that’s best for your body.
If you found this article helpful, be sure to browse our health section for more ways to maintain a healthier lifestyle while on HRT. Don’t let menopause get in the way of your life.