Menopause begins when a woman’s menstrual cycle has ended naturally and has not re-occurred for at least 12 months. Menopause is a natural biological process and typically happens in a woman’s 40s or 50s.
Menopause can bring about uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating hormonal changes, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and other symptoms. Our providers can work closely with you and provide treatment options to ensure this period in life goes as smoothly as possible.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is medication that contains female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone that your body has stopped making naturally due to menopause or other medical reasons.
HRT is most often used to treat menopausal symptoms such as severe hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness, itching, burning, and discomfort with intercourse. HRT has also been proven to prevent bone loss (osteoporosis) and reduce the risk of bone fractures in postmenopausal women.
For women who have had their ovaries removed before the age of 45, or who have stopped having periods before age 45, HRT can decrease the risks for osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, dementia, and mood changes due to hormonal imbalance.
However, there are health risks involved with HRT depending on the type of therapy, your individual health risks, the length of therapy, and dosage. Hormone replacement therapy needs to be tailored to each individual woman and regularly reevaluated to ensure the medical benefits outweigh the risks.
There are two main types of estrogen therapy:
- Systemic hormone therapy: These therapies come in pill, ring, gel, cream, spray, or skin-patch form and contain a higher dosage of estrogen than some other therapies.
- Low-dose vaginal products: These therapies come in cream, tablet, or ring form and minimize the amount of estrogen absorbed, making them a good choice for treating undesirable vaginal and urinary symptoms of menopause.
If your uterus is intact, your provider will usually prescribe estrogen with progesterone or progestin. This combination is prescribed because estrogen alone can stimulate growth of the lining of your uterus and increase the risk of endometrial cancer.
What are the risks of hormone therapy?
HTR can increase the risk of certain serious conditions, including heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer. Clinical studies indicate that these risks vary depending on the following:
- Age: if HRT is started before age 60 and within 10 years of menopause, clinical studies indicate that the benefits can outweigh the risks
- Type of hormone therapy: different types have different risks depending on whether estrogen is given alone or with progestin, what type of estrogen is involved, and what the dosage is
- Health history: your family’s history as well as your medical history and risk for cancer, blood clots, liver disease, and osteoporosis are important variables
All of the risks and potential benefits of HRT need to be carefully weighed and discussed between you and your provider, not just once, but throughout your menopausal years. Here at Catawba Valley Healthcare, we are staying current on the latest research findings and are here to help you minimize menopausal symptoms in the healthiest way possible.