Treatments & Therapies

Hormone Replacement Therapy – Treatment, Effects & Risks

Hormone replacement therapy

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be used during a woman’s menopause and well beyond. This is the period when the ovaries gradually stop producing hormones and the body’s production of the hormones estrogen and progestin stops . Hormone replacement therapy is used, among other things, to alleviate symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes , loss of libido, sleep disorders and vaginal dryness.

What is hormone replacement therapy?

Hormone replacement therapy is intended to compensate for the lack of estrogen and progestin during a woman’s menopause, which occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, and in the period that follows (postmenopause).

With the faltering hormone production during menopause, stressful biological changes often occur in women, which can be slowed down by hormone replacement therapy. Hormone replacement therapy is administered either in the form of tablets, hormone patches or vaginal suppositories or vaginal creams and usually consists of a combination of estrogens and progestins.

Hormone replacement therapy is not intended to restore the previous level of hormones in the body, but to eliminate the symptoms caused by hormone deficiency.

Function, effect & goals

Until ten years ago, hormone replacement therapy was considered the ideal solution to reduce menopausal symptoms. In the meantime, however, it has been proven that this therapy can also be associated with considerable risks. However, many women enter into hormone replacement therapy, either because they have severe menopausal symptoms or because they have been convinced that hormone replacement therapy can protect them from osteoporosis (decrease in bone density), heart attack or depression .

In fact, hormone replacement therapy is far less likely to cause symptoms such as sweating , loss of libido , and mood swings . The decrease in bone density has also been shown to slow down over the course of this therapy.

With hormone replacement therapy during and after menopause, the cosmetic goal of preventing wrinkles and thus maintaining a rejuvenated appearance can also be pursued. The therapy is also used to reduce urinary tract infections .

Before hormone replacement therapy is prescribed, a thorough gynecological examination is carried out by the gynecologist and, in many cases, a blood test is used to determine the hormone level. The doctor then discusses the benefits and risks of hormone replacement therapy with the patient. Due to possible risks, it must be determined individually which is the lowest effective dose for the respective patient and for how long she should continue the therapy.

It is recommended that women over 60 should stop using hormone replacement therapy. An average period of between 3 and 5 years is assumed to be the duration of treatment, after which the hormones are gradually reduced and then stopped altogether.

Hormone replacement therapy can be administered via various preparations. The dosages administered in the early years are now considered too high. In the meantime, the dosage is as low as possible in order to reduce dangers and side effects.

Hormone replacement therapy is often given in tablet form. A dryness of the vagina caused by a lack of hormones is usually not treated with tablets, but with a cream containing estrogen, which puts much less strain on the body than tablets. There are now also low-dose hormone patches that may also have fewer side effects.

Risks, side effects & dangers

Recent studies show that the risks of hormone replacement therapy may outweigh the benefits. Apparently, patients treated with hormone replacement therapy are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer or having a heart attack than women who are not receiving hormone replacement therapy.

It has also been shown that there is an increased risk with some pre-existing conditions such as obesity , arteriosclerosis and high blood pressure . There is also an increased risk of having a heart attack, thrombosis or problems with the gallbladder as a result of hormone replacement therapy. Under no circumstances should hormone replacement therapy be used if a hormone-dependent tumor is present, such as breast cancer or uterine cancer . Osteoporosis should only be treated with hormone replacement therapy if there is already a high risk of bone fracture and other medications are out of the question.

All of the above suggests that the benefits and risks must be carefully weighed before initiating hormone replacement therapy. Under certain circumstances, a well-considered, temporary hormone replacement therapy can be used for severe menopausal symptoms.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.