If you or someone close to you are experiencing menopause signs, then getting a clear knowledge about hormone replacement therapy can provide you with a good support to decide whether you should go for it or not. You can consult your doctor, or can take help of online websites; there are many websites like Nexel Medical on which you can get proper consultancy and guidance regarding HRT. Let’s have a look to HRT in depth.
Hormone Replacement Therapy – What is it?
Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT is also popularly known as estrogen replacement therapy and menopausal hormone therapy. In this process, with the help from progesterone and estrogen, you can get some relief from the usual signs of aging as well as menopause. If your doctor realizes the need for HRT, they can even suggest it during or after the menopause phase.
After our mensuration process comes to an end, our hormone levels experiences some change, which can lead to various uncomfortable situations like vaginal dryness, thinning hair, urinary disorder, osteoporosis, sleep problems, hot flashes, night sweat, irregular menstruation, mood swings, having problems in concentrating as well as remembering things, reduction in fertility, concentration of fats in our abdomen area, smaller breasts etc.
HRT (hormone replacement therapy) provides hormones that our body is no longer able to make. This treatment is believed to be the most useful option for treating the symptoms of menopause.
The need for Estrogen:
As we already know estrogen is required during or prior to pregnancy. However, it has some other roles too, like making our bones strong enough, enhancing the level of good cholesterol, supervising the use of calcium by our bodies.
Is HRT useful?
In women’s reproductive system, estrogen as well as progesterone play an integral role. Estrogen encourages the discharge of eggs and on the other hand progesterone makes your womb ready for the implantation of eggs.
It’s a natural fact that number of eggs reduces as the time goes by, as well as production of estrogen reduces too. Usually women begin to experience such problems in their late forty’s.
Perimenopause is a situation of woman’s transition into menopause; changes starts to continue even the women still have their menstruation. Symptoms can begin as early as age of 44, it can last from anywhere between 3 to 10 years. On an average woman experiences this condition for a period of almost four years.
On an average at around the age of fifty one, when your last period appears, you step into your menopause.
After having your last period, menopause usually continues for a whole year after which you step into the post-menopausal period. The various signs start to reduce in the next two to five years, however sometimes it can last for ten years or even a little more than that.
Nevertheless, various other situations like cancer treatment or removing ovaries because of some reason can instigate the arrival of menopause earlier than expected.
People who can go for HRT:
Usually women who are experiencing menopausal symptoms can have this treatment, however this might not be suitable for people who had the following:
Past experience of blood clot, liver ailment, history of womb cancer or ovarian cancer or breast cancer, blood pressure , excessive problem of migraines, stroke, heart ailment etc.
The above ailments need to be taken care of before having this treatment. Also there is a possibility that you might get pregnant while you are on HRT. So it is normally suggested that you use contraceptives for two years since the last time you had your periods if you are less than 50 years old or at least for a year if you are more than 50 years old.
In such conditions, doctors might suggest alternative options too.
A recent line of thinking suggests that the chances of having breast cancer increases if you are on HRT for a continuous period of 5 years or more. However for women between 50 to 60 years the risk of blood clotting related health issues or stroke is not that high.
Because of HRT there is an outside chance that women may gain weight. A recent study has revealed that women usually gain weight during menopause, however it’s not necessarily because of HRT. Some other reason behind gaining weight during this time might be the lack of physical exercises. It has also been found that with a change in hormone levels fat gets redistributed and this leads to an increase in appetite caused by a fall in the levels of estrogen.
There are various options available in the market for this treatment. Expert advice is always welcome for guiding you to choose one that is right for you.
Majority of women get a mixture of hormones called progesterone and estrogen. However for women who don’t have a womb can get just the estrogen only.
There are various options available in the market for getting the treatment, like a vaginal cream, tablets, gel, pessaries or even ring, skin patches etc.
This medication needs to be used continuously, without any gap. You can also go for a cycle, where you can get estrogen continuously and progesterone in every alternate week.
There are 2 main types of hormone therapy:
- One stream is known as estrogen-only therapy. This hormone provides relief to women from menopausal symptoms. This form of treatment is normally favored for women who do have an uterus due to some accidents or procedures like hystecrectomy.
- The therapy that uses a combination of both estrogen and progesterone is called EPT. The role of progesterone in this treatment is to protect women having uterus from uterine cancer.
Modes of HRT:
- There are certain systemic products that can be used. They will normally flow through the bloodstream to all parts of the body. They are available in various forms like gel, patches, oral tablets, sprays , injections etc. They are effective in treating symptoms like hot flashes , vaginal symptoms, night flashes , osteoporosis etc.
- There is another category of products that act on a specific area or part of our body. These category of products are available in the form of a ring , cream or tablet. They are effective in dealing with vaginal symptoms.
Best practices for prescribing:
The best way to begin hormone therapy is to start with small but effective doses and continue that for the shortest possible period of time in line the goals that you are trying to achieve through this treatment. It has been found that women aged between 50 to 59 years who start the treatment close to their menopause have a greater chance of having a favorable result. However if started later then it becomes riskier with age and arrival of menopause. For women who experience menopause before the age of 40 can go for HT provided they do not have a previous history of breast cancer. However it is recommended that you should consult with a professional before going for this treatment. They will suggest customized plans for individuals.
HRT Side effects and risks associated with it:
Like several other medications, HRT also has some side effects, however these effects mostly go away within the initial 3 months.
Following are some usual side effects:
Nausea, headaches, indigestion, tenderness of breast, vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain. Some of it can enhance the risk of breast cancer as well as blood clots too.
Some alternatives to HRT are also available especially for women with perimenopause symptoms.
These are as follows:
- Stop smoking
- Lower the consumption of spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine
- Daily workout
- Sleeping in a cool as well as well-ventilated room
- Put on loose cloths
- A medicine known as tibolone has a similar impact as that of a combined HRT (progesterone and estrogen). However it might not be as effective as HRT. This option is only meant for women who had their last menstruation over a year ago.
- Clonidine is a non-hormonal medicine, which can help you to avert night sweats as well as hot flashes too. However the benefits might not be as pronounced as HRT.
- Though it has some side effects like dizziness etc. however antidepressant can also lower the symptoms like hot flushes as well as night sweats too.
Though HRT is a good option for treating menopausal symptoms, however before you decide on anything you need to have a really good talk with your doctor. Your doctor can advise you on what to do and what not to, according to your current health situation.