Although hormone replacement therapy in women is usually only prescribed for a short period of time to treat acute menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, it can also be helpful for many other conditions discussed below. One of the primary uses of hormonal replacement therapy is to relieve a constellation of symptoms that plague quite a few women. These symptoms generally all rather suddenly begin at around the same time sometime between age 30 and 60 and include such things as:
- “Brain fog”, namely difficulty concentrating and remembering things
- Sleeping disturbances
- Unexplainable weight gain, particularly around the waist, that does not respond to diet and exercise
- Mood swings and depression
- Aches and pains
- Loss of libido
Women usually attribute this complex of symptoms to “just getting older” or sometimes they are dismissed as “part of perimenopause” if the affected woman hasn’t gone through menopause yet. However, often women troubled by these symptoms are found to have abnormally low hormone levels or imbalances in their hormone levels. When these women receive the appropriate doses of the hormones they are lacking, their symptoms usually resolve. They regain their energy and and mental sharpness, and suddenly their excess body weight starts to respond to diet and exercise and melts away.
The second most common reason for prescribing hormone replacement therapy not linked to treating acute menopause symptoms is to preserve the bones. After menopause, estrogen levels dramatically drop, which can trigger the bones to start losing mass, a common condition referred to as osteoporosis. Over time, the bones become brittle and weak and can spontaneously fracture or fracture in response to a very minor trauma. Hormone replacement therapy in women thought to be at a higher risk of osteoporosis can stop the bone loss and even rebuild bone.
A number of studies have shown that shortly after menopause, many women suddenly begin to experience arthritis pain in their knees and other joints. It is speculated that the drop in estrogen associated with menopause induces inflammation in the joints. Women suffering from arthritis pain can experience significant relief from their joint pain and experience improved function if they are treated with hormone replacement therapy. This effect appears to be quite profound for knee arthritis but it is also helpful for arthritis affecting other joints, such as in the hands.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer diagnosed in women, and if it is not diagnosed early, victims have a poor prognosis. Women can help protect themselves from colorectal cancer by eating a healthy diet, exercising, and participating in colorectal cancer screening programs, but another way they can protect themselves is by taking hormone replacement therapy. Through an as yet unknown mechanism, hormone replacement therapy significantly reduces the risk of colorectal cancer in women. Women worried about colorectal cancer due to a family history may want to consider adding this treatment to their preventative protocol.
Although commonly thought of as a man’s problem, hair thinning affects around 40% of women. It often starts around age 50 and relentlessly progresses. Medical science has not come up with many options to treat hair loss in women other than minoxidil, which while helpful is clearly not a miracle cure. Obviously, hair loss has no real medical consequences but it can be devastating to self-esteem and quality of life for a woman to experience thinning hair. Hormone replacement therapy can, in some women, stop the hair thinning process and encourage hair regrowth.
Most of the non-menopausal uses of hormone replacement therapy are applicable to middle-aged and older women, but there is an important use of hormone replacement therapy in young women: treating postpartum depression. This condition affects around one out of every seven women after giving birth and can cause serious difficulties in recovering from the birth, caring for the infant, and returning to work. In some cases, it can be so severe it causes psychosis. Woman suffering from severe postpartum depression that does not quickly resolve may be able to relieve their symptoms by taking a short course of hormone replacement therapy so they can move on to enjoying their new baby. Hormone replacement therapy can be conveniently delivered via pellets, patches, creams, and other means. If you think you have a condition that may benefit from hormone replacement therapy, consider making an appointment to discuss it. Call (205) 352-9141