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Hormone Replacement Therapy

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Hormone replacement therapy is a form of treatment given to supplement or substitute the lack of naturally occurring hormones. The most common form of this treatment is for menopausal women. It is given to women whose estrogen and progesterone levels dwindle after they enter menopause. In this article, we shall focus on hormone replacement therapy for menopause and its uses.

What is Hormone Replacement Therapy for Menopause?

Hormone replacement therapy for menopause involves replacing hormones that are no longer produced in the body after menopause. The main hormones that are replaced in this therapy, include estrogen, progesterone and progestin.

HRT was a standard treatment recommended for menopausal women. However, a recent study in 2002, found an increase in risk of cancer and other diseases in such women. These women undergoing HRT, should higher incidence of breast cancer, heart attacks as well as stroke. Thus, the number of women opting for hormone replacement therapy dropped significantly.

What are the Uses of Hormone Replacement Therapy?

HRT helps reduce the symptoms of menopause. These include:

  • Dryness, itching, burning and discomfort of the vagina due to lack of estrogen
  • Hot flashes
  • Thinning of the vaginal walls
  • Aches and pains
  • Mood disturbances
  • Palpitations
  • Dry, itchy eyes
  • Hair loss
  • Abnormal hair growth
  • Low sex drive
  • Insomnia
  • Gingivitis

Other benefits of hormone replacement therapy include:

  • Lower risk of developing diabetes
  • Low chances of developing osteoporosis
  • Reduction in the risk of developing colon cancer

What is the Risk of Hormone Therapy?

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A clinical trial that consisted of over 160,000 women proved the dangers associated with hormone therapy. These side effects or dangers of hormone replacement therapy for women included:

  • Breast cancer
  • Heart attack
  • Strokes
  • Blood clots
  • Uterine cancer

How is Hormone Replacement Therapy Given?

There are different forms of hormone therapy given according to individual need. These include:

  • Tablets: Some may be prescribed a dose of tablets to be taken daily. This is one of the most common form of HRT for menopausal women.
  • IUD: The intrauterine device (IUD) is used to deliver progesterone to women who cannot tolerate the tablet form of the hormone.
  • Skin patches: These patches can be applied every 3-4 days and is one of the least side effect causing methods. These side effects include nausea and blood blots.
  • Gels and creams: These are ideal for women who suffer from dryness in the vagina or cannot tolerate estrogen skin patches.

What are the Side Effects Observed After Undergoing HRT?

Some of the common side effects of HRT include:

  • Fluid retention
  • Migraine headaches
  • Swelling or tenderness of the breasts
  • Depression
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Who Should Avoid Hormone Replacement Therapy?

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One should not use HRT in case they:

  • Are pregnant
  • Have afamily history of breast cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer
  • Have a history of blood clots
  • Have suffered from stroke
  • Suffer from unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Are suffering from liver disease

Alternatives to Hormone Replacement Therapy

Many women cannot take hormones or are worried about the long-term dangers of hormone replacement therapy. These women can opt for the following alternatives to HRT:

  • Regular sessions of exercise to reduce the symptoms of hot flashes and insomnia
  • Wear loose, cotton clothes to relieve hot flashes
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce the intake if caffeine, spicy foods and alcohol
  • Eat a healthy diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Take up yoga, Tai chi, etc.
  • Develop a positive attitude towards life

This is a bit about hormone replacement therapy for menopause. One cannot term HRT as good or bad. There are grave risks involved related to the long-term use of HRT. Speak to your doctor regarding individual risks and review other treatment options as well. In some cases, HRT may help reduce symptoms of menopause without any long-term ill effects.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: March 13, 2015

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