Hormone replacement therapy is a means of introducing outside hormones into the body when the body's natural production of the substance is inadequate.
Hormone fluctuations caused by menopause can result in estrogen and progesterone deficiencies. Low hormone levels are problematic not only because they produce a range of bothersome side effects, such as hot flashes and mood swings, but also for its recently-discovered link to the risk of more serious conditions such as:
- Weakness of the pelvic floor and vaginal muscles
- Heart disease
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) works by replacing the body's hormones and boosting specific hormone levels. HRT is most commonly a combination of estrogen and progesterone.
HRT is available in various forms, including tablets, implants, creams, pessaries and patches. Each form has its own combination of estrogen and progesterone and differs in strength. Women should speak to their doctor when deciding which type of therapy to follow.
Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy in Menopause
HRT has long been used by postmenopausal women because it provides a range of benefits. Most women use HRT for two to three years, since it helps with the following:
- Relieving troublesome symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and loss of libido
- Reducing the risk of osteoporosis
- Reducing the risk of bowel cancer
Potential benefits of HRT include:
- Decrease in LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and increase in HDL (“good” cholesterol)
- A small decrease in the risk of colorectal cancer
Risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy in Menopause
Substituting synthetic hormones for natural ones produces a range of side effects and carries many risks. For some women, however, the benefits may outweigh the risks. The most common adverse effects associated with HRT are:
- Tender breasts
- Water retention
- Weight gain
- Heavier periods
HRT, especially when used for a prolonged period, can increase the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, stroke, blood clots, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), gallstones, and endometrial cancer. HRT is recommended in short-term, low-dose measures for alleviating menopause symptoms.
HRT patients who experience abnormal or excessive bleeding, shortness of breath, chest pains, or coughing should consult a physician right away. Swollen or painful legs while using HRT also warrant immediate medical attention and to discontinue treatment.
Now that the relationship between HRT and menopause has been covered, continue reading to understand the side effects of hormone replacement therapy.