Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) used to be one of the most highly recommended treatments for women going through menopause. However, after a shocking study completed in 2002 by the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) unearthed the many health risks that accompany HRT, it has become the most controversial menopausal treatment. Although there are many health risks linked to HRT, women who have undergone HRT claim that the increase in their quality of life was worth the risks.
When HRT is administered for a short period of time in the lowest dosage possible, it is able to quickly combat the symptoms of menopause without the additional risk factors that accompany HRT. Some of the benefits include relief from hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, irritability, insomnia, palpitations, and joint aches. In some cases, women have reported relief from hot flashes and night sweats only three weeks after beginning treatment. After 1-3 months, HRT can reverse changes around the vagina and vulva. The correlating effects of easing these symptoms is that women often experience less stress and anxiety in their everyday lives. Systematic HRT can also help women who are think they are prone to osteoporosis fight it before it becomes more serious.
So, does HRT help prevent osteoporosis? “There are strong data from the WHI that hormone replacement therapy is beneficial for bone and reduces hip fracture risk”, says Mary Bouxsein, MD, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard School of Medicine and Deaconess Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston. Although HRT provides all of these benefits, there are still many risks associated with HRT.
The largest clinical trial to date that studied the risks involved with an estrogen and progesterone HRT regimen discovered an alarming number of serious health risks associated with this form of treatment. These risks include higher rates of heart disease, breast cancer, strokes, blood clots, and abnormal mammograms. These risks increase the longer a woman stays on HRT. Your doctor will be able to tell you if you are at risk of experiencing these side effects and guide you through the process of deciding which form of treatment is best for you.
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