Hormone replacement therapy is the process of administering medications that contain female hormones to replace hormones that the body is lacking due to menopause. Hormone replacement therapy is also used to treat symptoms related to menopause including vaginal discomfort and hot flashes. Further, hormone replacement therapy has been shown to reduce fractures and prevent bone loss in women who are postmenopausal.

How Different Types of Hormone Replacement Therapy Affect the Body

The effects of hormone replacement therapy are dependent on the type of hormone therapy that is used. There are two main types of hormone replacement therapy: systemic hormone therapy and low dose vaginal preparations. Systemic hormone therapy, or systemic estrogen, is offered in a gel, pill, cream, spray, or skin patch. Systemic hormone therapy has been shown to be the most highly effective treatment to decrease symptoms of menopause including night sweat and hot flashes. It can also aid in the relief of symptoms related to menopause such as vaginal dryness, burning, itching, and pain during intercourse.

Further, when used in combination with progesterone therapy, estrogen therapy may lower the risk of developing colon cancer. Estrogen therapy has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease if it is taken early during menopause. Systemic estrogen is able to protect against osteoporosis. Low dose estrogen vaginal preparations are offered in a tablet, ring, or cream. They are able to treat urinary and vaginal symptoms of menopause. This type of hormone replacement therapy is not able to reduce hot flashes, protect against osteoporosis, or decrease night sweats.

Hormone Replacement Therapy Facts

Individuals who have not had their uterus removed are generally prescribed estrogen as well as progestin or progesterone. If estrogen is taken without progesterone, it may stimulate the uterus lining to cause growth. The increased growth of the uterus lining may lead to an increased risk of uterine cancer. If an individual has had their uterus removed, they may take estrogen without progesterone.

Estrogen is the most effective method of treating symptoms of menopause. Hormone replacement therapy may help individuals most who:

  • had premature menopause
  • lost normal function of ovaries before 40
  • have moderate to severe symptoms of menopause
  • no tolerance for other treatment
  • lost bone mass
  • stopped having periods before 40

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