Hormone treatment, also known as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), is considered a godsend for menopausal women experiencing severe symptoms of menopause. Menopause occurs when the menstrual cycle ends permanently. This typically begins around age 40 to 55 but could onset earlier in women younger than 40.
What Is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
As women age into perimenopause and menopause, they tend to experience fluctuation and decline in hormone levels. These hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are responsible for regulating sexual, vaginal, and reproductive health.
Hormone treatment replenishes estrogen and progesterone levels and restores hormonal balance, before, during, and after menopause. Regulating hormone levels helps to reduce troublesome symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, nights sweats, vaginal dryness, pain during sex, mood swings, and insomnia. It also helps improve bone health.
Types of Hormone Therapy
Menopausal symptoms can last for 3 to 10 years and can start as early as the late 30’s in women experiencing premature menopause. Estrogen-alone therapy (ET) and estrogen with progesterone therapy (EPT) are the two types of hormone therapies that effectively treat these symptoms.
Women who had their uterus removed are treated with estrogen-alone therapy while estrogen with progesterone therapy (EPT) is reserved for women who have their uterus intact. This is an important distinction since treating women with estrogen who have their uterus intact increases the risk of cancer of the uterus.
Is Hormone Treatment Right for Me?
As with almost all medical treatment, there are risks and benefits of taking hormone therapy to alleviate symptoms of menopause. However, HRT remains the most effective treatment. You may find that the benefits outweigh the risks if you fit the following criteria:
• You are healthy.
• Experience moderate to severe hot flashes, night sweats or other menopausal symptoms.
• Under 40 and stopped having periods (premature menopause).
• Under 40 and lost normal functions of your ovaries (premature ovarian insufficiency).
• Have lost bone mass and have tried other treatments that failed.
Who Should Avoid Hormone Therapy?
Women who started menopause after age 40 and experience mild menopausal symptoms do not typically need hormone therapy. Your doctor may nevertheless advise on other methods of reducing the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, or other related conditions. Medication and lifestyle changes may help prevent these conditions.