Assess All Risks Great And Small When Considering Hormone Replacement Therapy

Posted by on September 19, 2014 in Blog, Health & Medical | 0 comments

Are you struggling to cope with insufferable hot flashes, restless nights and the discomfort of painful intercourse? The onslaught of perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms can be downright stressful for many women. If those pesky symptoms are disrupting your quality of life, you may be contemplating the use of hormone replacement therapy for relief.  Familiarizing yourself with both the short-term side effects and the long-term health risks will empower you to make an informed decision regarding whether or not hormone replacement therapy is right for you.

Hormones Used In Therapy

Hormone replacement therapy is a group of drugs made up of female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Hormone replacement therapy is used to treat the unpleasant menopausal symptoms of hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, disrupted sleep and decreasing bone density.  There are several different preparations available for administering these hormones into your body:

  • Oral pills
  • Transdermal patches
  • Topical gel or spray
  • Vaginal ring
  • Intrauterine device

Therapy may replace estrogen alone or estrogen and progestin, a synthetic form of progesterone.  The factor that determines which therapy you should receive is the presence or absence of your uterus.

  • Estrogen therapy is recommended if you have had a hysterectomy to remove your uterus.  It is the drop in estrogen levels that occurs in your body during perimenopause that causes many of your symptoms. Using estrogen alone helps to alleviate those symptoms.
  • Combination therapy is recommended if you still have your uterus.  Progesterone is responsible for keeping the lining of your uterus, the endometrium, thin.  Once you no longer have monthly periods, the excess cells of your uterus are no longer shed.  Without progesterone, the cells continually accumulate, which can lead to cancer.  Taking estrogen alone without replacing progesterone increases your risk for developing endometrial cancer.

The Side Effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy

In the short-term, you may experience some side effects when starting hormone replacement therapy.  The potential side effects of taking estrogen alone or in combination with progestin include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Breast tenderness
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Fluid retention
  • Darkening of the skin

If you still have your uterus and are taking the combination therapy, the increase of estrogen in your body can promote an increased growth of uterine fibroids, endometriosis and irregular vaginal bleeding.

Additional side effects of progestin include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating or abdominal discomfort
  • Depression or mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Some side effects may subside after a few weeks of therapy.  If you experience any side effects, be sure to address them with your doctor.  If these effects persist or are particularly bothersome, your doctor may change the hormone drug used, adjust the dosage or try a different form of administration.

Long Term Serious Health Risks

By opting to treat your menopausal symptoms with hormone replacement therapy, you could be trading in some temporary inconveniences for some serious potential health issues in the future. These increased risks include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Gallstones

The level of risk depends on how long you take hormone replacement therapy, when the therapy is initiated and on whether you already have additional risk factors for developing these conditions.  Hormone therapy is not recommended if you:

  • may be pregnant
  • have liver disease
  • have a history of breast cancer
  • have a history of ovarian cancer
  • have a history of heart attack, stroke or blood clots
  • have uncontrolled high blood pressure

For many women, short-term use of hormone replacement therapy administered at the lowest effective dose provides the relief that they are seeking, restoring their quality of life during two to five year period when the onslaught of menopausal symptoms can seem overwhelming.  Discuss your symptoms with a doctor like those at, and weigh the benefits and risks of hormone replacement therapy to determine if this treatment will enable you to reclaim control of your life.

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