Is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Right for You?

Is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Right for You?

What was once a routinely prescribed treatment in menopausal women, hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, saw a sharp decline in 2002 following a study linking HRT to various health risks, including increased risks of breast cancer, heart attack, and stroke. In recent years, however, we’ve seen an increase in HRT treatments as many female health groups and physicians, including the North American Menopause Society, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and the Endocrine Society, argue that the health benefits of HRT often outweigh the risks, especially in healthy women without preexisting conditions.

In addition to menopausal women, some younger women can also qualify for HRT, especially those with menstrual irregularities or those who experience hormonal imbalances without an identified cause. For these women, HRT may be used to regulate their female sex hormones up until the time of menopause. Make sure to consult with a qualified physician when determining whether HRT is the right choice for you.

What Is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)?

Hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, is a treatment used when a woman’s body is no longer making enough estrogen. Physicians commonly give HRT to women who have gone through menopause, but as we mentioned, it may also benefit younger women whose bodies produce lower amounts of estrogen. By replacing the estrogen that your body would normally produce, HRT can greatly reduce the common symptoms associated with menopause and low estrogen levels. 

(Physicians will also prescribe progesterone, the other female sex hormone, to some women. This will help regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle and is essential in preparing your uterus for pregnancy – though this is generally not an issue for menopausal women.)

There are two basic types of hormone replacement therapy for women:

Systemic Hormone Therapy

Systemic hormone therapy is the most common form of HRT,  and it comes in the form of a pill, patch, ring, gel, cream, or spray. It contains a high dose of estrogen that the body absorbs directly and will then be automatically redirected where needed. Almost all patients receive this type of hormone replacement therapy.

Low-Dose Vaginal Products

Some patients require a subtler, less widespread treatment, or their bodies may be sensitive to medical treatment. For those patients, low-dose vaginal products are available, which target the release of estrogen to the vaginal area and come in a lower dosage. Low-dose vaginal products are commonly available in cream, tablet, or ring form.

Benefits of HRT

Hormone replacement therapy has many benefits, especially for women experiencing strong menopausal symptoms. Some of the most common benefits of HRT include:

  • Prevents bone loss and resulting breaks by protecting against osteoporosis
  • Relieves symptoms related to hot flashes
  • Soothes vaginal symptoms such as dryness, itching, burning, and other discomforts
  • Reduces the likelihood of early menopause

Risk Factors of HRT

As identified back in 2002, HRT can pose health risks in some women. The risks include increased risks of:

  • Breast cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Blood clots

Because of these health risks, many physicians stopped prescribing HRT to their patients; however, more recent studies argue that the positive health benefits of HRT outweigh the health risks and that the health risks are heavily dependent on the following factors:

  • Age
  • Health history
  • Type of hormone replacement therapy

Women who wait longer after starting menopause (more than 10 years) have a higher risk of health problems associated with HRT. This is due to the long absence of estrogen from their bodies, by which a fresh stream of the female sex hormone can cause complications, including regrowth of breast tissue, which at that age, can lead to breast cancer. 

You can mitigate additional health risks by carefully monitoring the dosage of estrogen administered during HRT to ensure that the correct amount is given. As with all medical treatments, a person’s health history is essential when determining which type of medical treatment should be administered, especially HRT.

Conclusion

The only way to know if hormone replacement therapy is right for you is to consult with your physician and weigh the risks and benefits of treatment. In the meantime, making healthy lifestyle choices can help delay the need for HRT as well as putting yourself in the best position to qualify for HRT if the time comes.

If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at Core Medical Group. Because we want what’s best for you, we offer free consultations to determine the best course of treatment.

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