Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) is the introduction of external estrogen into a woman's body and is normally prescribed to women who have had their uterus surgically removed. However, it is also beneficial for women who are experiencing estrogen deficiency due to menopausal fluctuations, and it alleviates symptoms such as hot flashes, headaches, and mood swings. Estrogen is available as pills, vaginal creams, vaginal ring inserts, implants, shots and patches that are applied to the skin.
Dangers of Estrogen Replacement Therapy
A 2002 landmark study by the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) caused controversy by demonstrating a link between estrogen replacement therapy and breast cancer. Because the majority of estrogen used in estrogen replacement therapy is not generated by a woman's own body, there are certain dangers and reactions that can occur. In addition to aggravating symptoms that women with hormonal dysfunction may already be suffering, side effects of it may also include more serious conditions. An excess of estrogen caused by synthetic hormones has been linked to the following conditions:
- Increased risk of cancer. If higher doses of estrogen replacement therapy are used for long periods of time, it has been shown to raise the risk of cancer of the uterus, ovaries, and breasts.
- Gallbladder disease. It's believed that women who use estrogens after menopause are at greater risk of developing gallbladder disease that requires surgery.
- Abnormal blood clotting. Estrogen replacement therapy could prompt blood clotting which can cause a stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary embolus.
- Excess calcium in the blood. Synthetic estrogen may cause hypercalcemia in women suffering from bone or breast cancer.
- Increase in incontinence. Incontinence and uterine may become prolapsed.
Short-term Side Effects
The most commonly experienced side effects when using estrogen replacement therapy are:
Estrogen Replacement Therapy Side Effects
- Enlargement of benign tumors in the uterus
- Breakthrough bleeding or spotting
- Vaginal discharge
- Fluid retention
- Breast tenderness
- Skin spotting
- Vaginal yeast infections
- Involuntary muscle spasms
- Hair loss or abnormal hairiness
- Changes in sex drive
Long-term Side Effects
Common long-term side effects can include thyroid disorders, high blood pressure, breast or other cancers, stroke, heart disease, and pulmonary embolism.
Uncommon Side Effects
Uncommon side effects are rare and therefore affect a minority of women. They are the more unpleasant side effects related to estrogen replacement therapy and include:
Estrogen Replacement Therapy Uncommon Side Effects
- Double vision
- Extreme abdominal pain
- Unexplained bleeding
- Skin irritation
- Extreme fatigue
- Discolored urine or stool
- No appetite
Now that the side effects of estrogen replacement therapy have been covered, continue reading to the next section which focuses on progesterone replacement therapy.