Hormone therapy for menopause is considered one of the best options for improving the quality of life of menopausal women. Besides redressing the common symptoms of menopause such as night sweats, hot flashes, vaginal dryness and anxiety, hormone therapy can even reduce the risk of osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers.
However, studies on the long-term consequence of hormone therapy for menopause have identified few health risks. This article discusses the benefits and side effects of hormone therapy.
Types Of Hormone Therapy For Menopause
There are two types of hormone therapies – therapy with only estrogen and combined therapy with estrogen and progesterone or its synthetic form called progestin. The menstrual cycle is controlled by these female hormones. Estrogen reduces hot flashes and boosts vaginal lubrication.
However, therapy with only estrogen may induce excess growth of cells in the lining of the uterus in women who have not had a hysterectomy. Overgrowth of cells in the uterine lining may lead to uterus cancer. To prevent uterus cancer, progestin is added to the hormone therapy.
Hormones are taken in different ways. They are available in the form of oral pills, gels or creams, skin patches, vaginal rings or intrauterine device (IUD). The appropriate form of the therapy depends upon the symptoms of menopause.
While oral hormone products are most popular for treating most of the menopausal discomforts, hormone gels, creams or IUD are suitable options for treating vaginal discomforts.
Benefits Of Hormone Therapy For Menopause
The efficacy of hormone therapy in reducing hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, insomnia and memory problems have been proven in clinical trials. It is also an option for treating postmenopausal conditions such as osteoporosis and heart diseases.
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Studies have revealed that estrogen-alone as well as combination therapy can reduce loss of bone mass, thereby preventing risk of fractures in older women. Hormone therapy also helps to lower the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol in the blood, and improves the level of high-density lipoprotein (LDL) or good cholesterol. Researchers have found that combination therapy can lower the risk of colorectal cancers.
Side Effects Of Hormone Therapy For Menopause
Menopausal hormone therapy is linked to several uncomfortable side effects. In some cases, introducing excess estrogen to the body triggers breast enlargement.
Breast tenderness, bloating, nausea, bleeding, mood changes and headaches may occur after taking hormone therapy. When taken for more than five years, hormone therapy increases risks of breast cancer, blood clots in the legs and lungs, heart attack, stroke and dementia.
Menopausal hormone therapy, just like any other therapy for diseases, has its share of pros and cons. It is therefore advisable to consult your physician before selecting appropriate solution for your menopausal symptoms and postmenopausal conditions.
Hormone therapy is recommended only when the benefits of the treatment for a particular symptom of menopause outweighs the risks. To minimize side effects, only low doses of the hormones should be used for a short time. Instead of hormone replacement therapy, menopausal women can consider lifestyle changes for alleviating their physical and emotional discomforts naturally.
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