Hormone Therapy

Calming the Chaos Within

Health Guides: Hormone Therapy
 

Restoring normalcy with hormone therapy

Sometime in your 30s, estrogen production starts to gradually taper off. Once you reach menopause, your estrogen levels have dwindled to the point where you may experience hot flashes, vaginal dryness, poor sleep and a marked lack of desire. This hormonal shift is not limited only to menopausal women—women who’ve had a hysterectomy may also experience it.

Many women consider Hormone Therapy (HT) to be the ultimate form of relief for menopause symptoms, but it’s not the only answer. The only way to know if HT is right for you is to talk to your doctor. 

Possible Side Effects

  • Acne
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Breast tenderness, enlargement or discharge
  • Changes in libido or performance
  • Diarrhea
  • Fluid retention
  • Headaches
  • Menstrual-type "withdrawal" bleeding
  • Nausea

Certain types of HT carry higher risks than others, and your risks depend on your health history and lifestyle. If you decide to take HT, it should be at the lowest dose that helps and for the shortest time necessary.

Potential Risks

  • While most HTs are comprised of a combination of estrogen and progesterone, research suggests that taking only estrogen can increase the risk for uterine cancer.
  • Combination therapy (estrogen and progesterone) could slightly increase your risk of breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about the specifics.
  • Smoking while on HT significantly increases your odds of heart attack, stroke and blood clots. Talk to your doctor about how to quit smoking before you start HT.
  • Estrogen affects cholesterol levels and calcium use.
  • HT is often a second- or third-line treatment for menopause.
  • HT should be evaluated yearly for effectiveness.

Types

  • Estrogen Therapy is a dose of estrogen only that is administered through a pill, patch or cream. You should take the lowest dose that works for you.
  • Combination Therapy blends estrogen with a low dose of progesterone. This is the form of HT most commonly prescribed for menopause. 

Treatments

  • Many doctors will treat specific, individual symptoms—such as sleeplessness, mood swings or hot flashes—before prescribing HT.
  • HT is delivered in many ways: patches, tablets, creams, vaginal rings and gels. It is occasionally administered by injection.