During Menopause your diminishing hormones wreak havoc on your emotional and physical well-being. The loss of estrogen can make you depressed, anxious or both. The emotional strain you go through is compounded by the often worse physical symptoms. As your body goes through this change of life and you are hit with hot flashes and insomnia, it can feel like it’s too much to bear. There are many ways to manage your menopausal symptoms, the most common being Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). HRT is extremely effective, but there is some serious risk involved as well, which has many women wondering: can you trust hormone replacement therapy? We will explain everything you need to know about menopause and HRT so you can decide if you trust in the treatment and want to try it.
Menopause and Hormone Replacement Therapy.
During menopause your body’s estrogen levels drop as it loses it’s fertility and your menstrual period comes to an end. The drop in estrogen levels results in physical symptoms that can be intense and frequent, including hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, depression, a drop in sexual libido and depression. Hot flashes in particular can be difficult to handle and can occur without warning, often times at night, where they are referred to as night sweats. During hot flashes your body temperature rises, your skin becomes flushed and you break out in a cold sweat. The heat can be quite uncomfortable, and in rare instances dangerous.
Hormone replacement therapy can effectively diminish the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, as well as other menopause symptoms, which is why so many women use it. HRT involves taking estrogen, in combination with progestin, to replace the hormones you have lost, leveling your system and eliminating physical symptoms.
Women suffering from menopause are at higher risks of bone loss. HRT has also been know to have additional benefits, such a helping to stop bone loss and helping to prevent heart disease. It is a temporary treatment: it is not meant for prolonged use as it could increase your risk of breast cancer, but until recently it was seen as a viable treatment option. There are 2 types of HRT: systemic hormone therapy and low-dose vaginal preparation.
Recent clinical studies have brought some troubling information to light in regards to side effects and risks, making many physicians wary to recommend HRT. These studies linked HRT to an increased risk for certain types of cancer, most notably breast and ovarian, as well as an increase in your risk for a heart attack or stroke. The results of many of these studies found the risks outweighed the benefits, but now even more studies have been done saying the risks might be worth it-leaving many women confused and unsure. Here are the facts on HRT to help you separate fact from fiction:
The Benefits of HRT:
With systemic estrogen you can ingest it orally, through a patch or from a cream,gel or spray. It is the most effective way to combat hot flashes and night sweats. It also alleviates other vaginal symptoms, including:
- Discomfort during sex
It is also still proven to help prevent osteoporosis, or bone loss and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat this condition.
Low-dose vaginal estrogen comes in a cream, tablet or ring and is mostly for easing vaginal symptoms and some urinary problems, like UTI (urinary tract infection) which often occur during menopause. This from also limits the amount of estrogen your body absorbs, limiting your cancer risk.
The Risks of HRT:
Clinical studies found HRT to be associated with:
- Blood clots
- Heart disease
Estrogen is often given with progestin to prevent your uterus lining from growing, since estrogen promotes it’s development and increase your cancer risk. However, when taking a combination of these 2 drugs it can make breast tissue more dense, which can cause physicians and specialist to miss cancerous tissue. Liver disease can also arise from HRT, since systemic estrogen, when taken orally, is passed through the liver. It should also be noted that these studies found many of these risks were higher when other factors, such as advanced age, a history of cancer or prior liver disease were also present and HRT was given over a long period.
Can You Trust Hormone Replacement Therapy?
After all the testing and studies, physicians have determined that hormone replacement therapy is safe and effective when applied as follows:
- To women with no medical history of cancer or liver problems
- Over a short period of time at the onset of menopause
- To women with moderate to severe menopause symptoms
- In women under the age of 45
- In women suffering from bone loss