Menopause can wreak havoc on a woman's body, causing uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia, vaginal dryness, and mood changes. While hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can often help alleviate menopausal symptoms, some may question its safety. Fortunately, separating fact from fiction can make the decision easier.
Here at Shelnutt Gynecology in Athens, Georgia, Dr. Judson Shelnutt and our highly trained team provide comprehensive gynecologic care to women of all ages. With state-of-the-art equipment and a strong dedication to our patients, we can help you through all stages of life, including menopause and your decision to use HRT. Below are some of the myths and facts surrounding hormone replacement therapy.
Myths and facts about hormone replacement therapy
There are a variety of myths out there about HRT, ranging from the belief that it's “one-size-fits-all,” to the idea that it's risky for your health. However, here are the facts.
Hormone replacement therapy 101
HRT uses female hormones to replace the ones that are missing after a woman goes through menopause. Each woman's therapy is tailored to her situation, but typically women who have had their uterus removed take estrogen, while women who still have their uterus take estrogen along with either progesterone or progestin (a progesterone-like medication).
Hormone replacement therapy comes in a variety of forms, including systemic options like pills, skin patches, gels, creams, and sprays. These types work best to relieve hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal issues. Low-dose vaginal products are another type, and they come as creams, tablets, and rings. While low-dose vaginal products don’t help with hot flashes or night sweats, they can treat vaginal problems and some urinary symptoms while keeping overall body absorption to a minimum.
Synthetic hormones are typically made from animal sources. Another type is bioidentical hormones created from plants. The body cannot differentiate between these specially formulated hormones and its own natural ones.
Health risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy
HRT is not risk-free, but there are ways to minimize issues, including taking a woman's age into account and how long it has been since the onset of menopause. The type of hormone(s), dosage, personal health factors, and family history should also be used when determining the treatment protocol in order to make it as safe as possible.
Hormone replacement therapy may even offer some health benefits when started within 10 years of menopause. Besides relieving uncomfortable symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, it can:
- Lower the risk of osteoporosis
- Decrease cholesterol levels
- Protect against heart attacks
In addition, it doesn't increase the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, nor does it affect blood glucose control.
If you're tired of suffering from the symptoms of menopause, or are concerned about its long-term health effects, make an appointment with us to see if hormone replacement therapy is right for you.