Hormone Replacement Therapy otherwise known as HRT is treatment that uses medications which contain usually one or more female hormones including estrogen, progesterone and at times testosterone to replace hormones the body no longer produces after menopause or after surgically induced menopause. The therapy can be with just one hormone or a combination of the hormones.
When to Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Hormone Replacement Therapy is most commonly used to treat the symptoms of menopause such as vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances, increased anxiety, hot flashes and low sexual libido. Usually if a woman has had only her uterus removed, but her ovaries remain will not need HRT, if she does it is common to only receive estrogen therapy.
Due to increased health risks Hormone Replacement Therapy should only be considered if you are having excessive symptoms of menopause that are affecting your quality of life. Usually after taking HRT for a few years the symptoms can be avoided and you can gradually be weaned off the HRT.
What are the Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy?
HRT can offer relief of the symptoms brought about by menopause. Those who enter menopause naturally usually are given a synthetic version of progesterone with estrogen. This combination is beneficial in relieving vaginal dryness, vaginal itching and burning and discomforts of intercourse. HRT can help control hot flashes and sleep disturbances and improve sex drive due to relief of the vaginal dryness and pain with intercourse.
What are the Side Effects and Risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Although HRT is very effective in managing the symptoms of either surgically induced or natural menopause, it is not recommended routinely. This is because long term use does increase the risk for some health problems.
Women who come about menopause naturally are typically prescribed the combination of estrogen and manmade progestin, because without the progestin the estrogen can increase the risk for uterine cancer. If you are in need or HRT because you have had a hysterectomy you would only be given estrogen since you have no uterus.
Some of the risks of taking HRT include an increased risk of osteoporosis, colorectal cancer, and increased risk of stroke, blood clots, gallbladder disease and heart disease. You can limit your risk by only taking hormone therapy for a short time. Most medications produce side effects and HRT is has some as well. Some women experience bloating, water retention, irregular bleeding, mood swings, breast tenderness and headaches. Usually a dose adjustment of the hormones can alleviate these symptoms.