Friday, January 29, 2016

Is Hormone Therapy Treatment Safe for Menopause?

The question of whether hormone therapy treatment is safe or not for menopause didn’t seem to be a bother for many women, until researchers in the Women’s Health Initiative in 2002 associated this treatment with increased risks of diseases like heart attack, stroke and breast cancer, among others. Out of fear, the announcement saw millions of women do away with their hormones, drastically affecting its prescription and consumption. 2 years later, Women’s Health Institute would further establish that women making use of estrogen alone were not at high risk of developing heart attacks and breast cancer, save for blood clots and strokes.

To help in answering whether it’s still safe or not to use, we will briefly review what HRT is, and then the benefits and the risk factors.

Understanding HRT

When a woman gets to menopause (widely ranging from 30s to 50s), her body reduces the production of female hormones, known as estrogen and progesterone. With this development, her ovaries can no longer produce eggs, her monthly periods stop, and she can no longer become expectant. This change in the female life comes with a lot of short term and long term symptoms, including moodiness, irritability, sleep disturbance, hot flushes, sweating, vaginal pains and dryness, among others.

Administration of HRT

To relieve menopause symptoms, doctors prescribe HRT, which works by replacing either or both the depleted estrogen and progesterone. HRT is taken in various forms: in form of tablets, as implants (appropriate places as guided by the doctor), or by rubbing it into the skin as a gel or spray. Creams or vaginal rings can be administered for women dealing with vaginal dryness.

Types of Hormone Therapies

There are two major types of hormones therapies. Estrogen Therapy is where estrogen is taken alone, and is usually taken in low doses on a daily basis, for the purposes of relieving symptoms of menopause and for the prevention of osteoporosis, and is largely recommended for women who have undergone hysterectomy (removal of the uterus). The second one is generally referred to as a combination therapy, because ideally it is a combination of doses from estrogen and progesterone. Others may call it Estrogen Progesterone or Progestin Hormone Therapy.

The Do's and Don’ts of Hormone Therapy Treatment

Hormone therapy remains the most efficient and successful menopause treatments for hot flashes and vaginal dryness.  Vaginal estrogen should be the preferred treatment for women whose only issue is uncomfortable sexual intercourse because of vaginal dryness. Estrogen pills, cream, gel or spray remain the most reliable treatment for both night sweats and hot flashes, in addition to symptoms like itching and painful intercourse. You should therefore not suffer in silence with “internal global warming”, given the effectiveness of
HRT in fighting hot flashes.

It should be noted that unless advised otherwise by your doctor, HRT is a lot safer for women in their late 40s and early 50s. Younger women experiencing the early stages of menopause and undergoing hormone therapy have very low risks of contracting cancers, strokes and blood clots, compared to their counterparts in their 60s and 70s. Other benefits of taking HRT include reduced loss of teeth, decreased chances of suffering bone breakage and developing osteoporosis, and average improvement for pains in the joints. For peri-menopausal or menopausal women, use of hormones may be very safe for the control of irregular bleeding. Further, WHI agrees that hormones can significantly reduce the chances of women suffering from colon cancer and osteoporosis.

It’s imperative to point out that you cannot be safe using hormone replacement therapy in the prevention of chronic diseases, especially because there are increased risks of cancer and cardiovascular risks for women in postmenopausal stage. More particularly, for some older women the risks include gall bladder disease, blood clots, strokes and heart attack, breast cancer, and cancer of the uterine lining for women with a uterus. Even so, these risks are subject to many other factors like family history, the state of health for individual women, and the amount of estrogen or progesterone dosage, and whether the hormones are combined or not.

Hormones should only be introduced to older women (those who have not had periods for more than 10 years) in this category for very particular functioning, and under close supervision to avert more crises. It should however be noted that there are many women (young and old) who get breast cancer even when they are not on hormone therapy.

Every woman considering use of hormones should remember hormones are not a permanent medication, just like all other medications. Close consultations with a gynecologist or family doctor would help assess individual health situation and related risk factors for the development of a personalized formula.

A major disadvantage of the Women’s Health Initiative findings of 2002 is that majority of the women in the study were older women in their mid-60s. Those below the age of 60 were no more than 10%, who indeed had fewer risks and more benefits from hormone therapies.


Carolina Monroe Written by: Carolina
Way To Be Healthy Updated at: 5:17 AM


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