When you're facing the worst symptoms of menopause, you'd do anything for relief. That's why so many women turn to hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The treatment is widely known for its often immediate effectiveness in relieving menopause symptoms. But women considering HRT should understand the risks. A series of recent studies have linked the treatment to a host of side effects and some serious health risks, including the increased risk of breast cancer.
Want to know more? Keep reading for more information about the risks of taking HRT to treat menopause.
But before we get into the risks, how does HRT actually work? During menopause, your body's production of important hormones like estrogen begins to fluctuate before starting a long, steady decline. Predictably, given estrogen's role in a host of bodily functions — this sends many of your body's signals out of whack, leading to a host of unpleasant symptoms. HRT aims to replace this lost estrogen with synthetic hormones, relieving or even eliminating many. The treatment usually comes in pill form and is prescribed by a doctor.
What Are the Risks?
Sound good? Not so fast. HRT comes with a wide range of risks and side effects, including:
- Bloating and water retention
- Tender skin and breasts
- Weight gain
Used over a long period, HRT has been linked to a range of serious health risks, including breast cancer, stroke and blood clots. Most medical professionals recommend using HRT for not more than two years. Many don't recommend the treatment except in the most extreme cases.
Alternatives to HRT
Fortunately, if you're seeking relief to menopausal symptoms you're not bound to HRT. A range of alternative treatment options are available, coming with less risks and at a much lower cost. The first and foremost option recommended by nearly all health experts is a change in lifestyle. This includes exercising more, eating healthier and engaging in activities to relieve stress. Combined, these methods will help to ease the hormonal imbalance that is at the root of menopause symptoms.
Alternative medicines such as estrogenic herbs and their non-estrogenic counterparts have also been effective in some cases. These herbal remedies are available in the supplement aisle of most major grocery stores. Though estrogenic herbs are thought to cause some of the same side effects of HRT, these symptoms are notably less extreme. Hormone-regulating supplements aim to correct hormonal imbalance without these unpleasant side effects.