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What Is Wrightsville BeachHormone Replacement Therapy?
HRT (also known as hormone therapy, menopausal hormone therapy, and estrogen replacement therapy) uses female hormones — estrogen and progesterone — to treat common symptoms of menopause and aging. Doctors can prescribe it during or after menopause.
After your period stops, your hormone levels fall, causing uncomfortable symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness, and sometimes conditions like osteoporosis. Wrightsville Beach HRT replaces hormones your body no longer makes. It’s the most effective treatment for menopause symptoms.
Hormone Replacement Therapy - What Are the Benefits?
Hormone replacement therapy is a popular form of medication which is used to reduce the discomforts of menopause in women. When women reach menopause the production of estrogen and progesterone hormones by the ovaries is greatly reduced. They hence experience lots of changes in their bodies and exhibit symptoms which vary from time to time.
Replacement therapies are recommended so as to help ease these symptoms and most women experience a sense of well being after using these therapies for several weeks. There a number of known long-term and short-term benefits associated with the use of replacement hormones.
Replacement hormones reduce stress attacks, headaches, night sweating, and migraines. Women using these hormones also have a reduced chance of succumbing to muscular degeneration and Alzheimer's disease. Estrogen replacement hormones effectively treat symptoms experienced during menopause such as hot flushes and mood swings, vaginal dryness, and burning sensations and loss of vaginal elasticity. Studies also indicate that osteoporosis, a condition associated with the loss of bone density, can be avoided with the use of replacement hormones. This greatly reduces the risk of bone fractures as a result of weakened bones and joints.
The side effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) fall into two categories. First are the immediate side effects, such as headaches, nausea and vomiting and many others. Not all women will experience such side effects, and generally speaking these side effects resolve themselves once the HRT is stopped. Then there are long term risks such as increased risk of breast cancer (and other risks too). These longer term consequences of HRT are not reversible and in some cases are lethal. We'll start by answering the question "What is hormone replacement therapy?" Then we'll look at the advantages of bioidentical hormones, and finally at the side effects and risks associated with hormone replacement therapy.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Now let's look at hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Actually HRT is no longer routinely recommended for relief of menopausal complaints. It's too risky.
For a long time, doctor's thought that HRT was a cure all. Then some major studies, particularly the Women's Health Initiative revealed the risks associated with HRT. But before looking at the risks of HRT, let's make sure that we understand what it is.
The name "hormone replacement therapy" implies that HRT is replacing the estrogen and progesterone lost. It is, but not with the same hormones that our body makes. So its not replacing apples with apples. It's more like replacing apples with watermelons, and that's the main reason for the risks associated with HRT.
The average age for menopause is 51.4 years. This age has changed very little over the years. However, there is a long period of time prior to the menopause, that lasts approximately 10 years, which is referred to as the climacteric or peri-menopause phase.
So how does a person know when she has completed menopause and transitions into post-menopause? Once you have gone without menstruating for a consecutive 12 month period, then you are considered to have completed the menopause.
Until 2002 hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was routinely used to treat menopausal symptoms and protect long term health. So what changed in 2002? Well, there was a large clinical trial called the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) that reported that HRT actually caused more health risks than benefits for the women in the trial. Doctors started to get very nervous about prescribing it to their patients and as a result, up to two-thirds of women discontinued its use, quite often without even discussing it with their physicians.
Even though there is still plenty of confusion surrounding HRT, it is still considered the most effective treatment for dealing with menopausal symptoms.
Male Hormone Replacement Therapy: Andropause
Although menopause is just one of the phases of life, its symptoms often prove to be detrimental to a normal and active lifestyle of a career woman of today. So most of the women today undergo hormone therapy to get rid of these symptoms like hot flash, moderate to severe vaginal dryness and related discomforts. There are cases where even the younger women take the help of hormone therapy to treat the conditions in which ovaries do not produce sufficient estrogens naturally.
In its more advanced stage, hormone therapy is also being recommended for reducing the risk of heart disease and the debilitating disease of osteoporosis.
In order to alley the risks as far as possible, doctors suggest a continued treatment for 10 to 20 years or even throughout one's lifetime.
Hormone therapy is a procedure for receiving additional estrogen and progesterone in the body and there are several ways to take these hormones into your body. You can pop hormone pills. You can use them as topical medicines for your vaginal treatments. They can also get inside your body as implants or you can take the hormones through injections.
The normal women who have their uterus have to take a combination of estrogen and progesterone. This is because estrogen alone greatly increases a woman's risk of uterine cancer. The progesterone neutralizes this risk factor. The women who have had their uterus removed however are prescribed estrogen alone. This is known as "estrogen replacement therapy" (ERT).
There are many women who experience menopause before they are forty. Sometimes this happens naturally. Sometimes it is the result of surgery to remove the ovaries. Radiation or chemotherapy are also sometimes responsible for advancing menopause in the lives of certain women. Whatever may be the cause, in these cases of early menopause hormone or estrogen therapy becomes particularly essential to counter the effects of a premature drop in estrogen levels.
I know, the title sounds a little scary right? It's like imagining a team of medical doctors surrounding you as you lie on a table and they are performing natural hormone replacement therapy. They start to stick tubes in your body and then give you estrogen that comes from the lab. It kinda sounds like a movie from "Frankenstein", but in actuality, this is the best way I could describe hormone replacement therapy.
If that made you feel a little eery, then you should be happy that I have good news for you. There are other replacement therapies that are much safer and no hassle is needed. Also, herbal supplements are becoming the more favorable option for people who are uncomfortable with lab grown hormones being inserted in their bodies.
The soy seed is among the more essential natural supplements. This ingredient contains naturally occurring plant estrogen that can be described loosely as "weaker forms of female estrogen". It addresses estrogen imbalance by attaching these plant estrogens to the body's estrogen receptor sites. Surprisingly, these phytoestrogens can both increase and reduce the levels of estrogen in women. If a woman is in the perimenopausal stage, where there is a surplus of hormones, the soy seed decreases estrogen. In postmenopausal women, it increases them.
It is important to realize that what is being treated is not really the estrogen levels in the woman's body, but the accompanying symptoms that comes from it. I suggest using herbal supplements and not natural hormone replacement therapy because it is safer.
Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy
A point of confusion for some people is the difference between side effects and risks when taking a prescriptive drug. This is certainly true when it comes to hormone replacement therapy or HRT. HRT refers to synthetic hormones prescribed primarily to relieve menopause related complaints such as hot flashes, night sweats, erratic periods, excessive bleeding during perimenopause, etc.
Risks associated with HRT
There are long term risks associated with taking prescriptive hormones as part of replacement therapy. You may have taken prescriptive hormones for years with no side effects whatsoever, and they may have dramatically relieved your menopausal hot flashes, sweats and other complaints. Yet you are now at greater risk for a variety of serious illnesses including breast cancer, uterine cancer, stroke and heart attack to name a few. These are the risks associated with HRT. Research studies have found so many serious risks associated with hormone replacement therapy that most medical doctors are unwilling to routinely prescribe hormone replacement for relief of menopause related complaints. Rightly so, they don't want to put their patient's at risk for life threatening conditions.
Let's look more closely at the risks associated with replacement therapy. Much of our knowledge of these risks comes from the Women's Health Initiative, a study that tracked the health of thousands of women, some taking hrt and others not. The study was eventually stopped as it became clear that there was a dramatically increased risk of breast cancer among the women undergoing HRT. Because of the complex nature of the study, the results are difficult to summarize succinctly. Numerous other studies have also clarified the risks and benefits associated with hormone replacement. Here is a broad picture of the level of risk associated with hormone replacement, followed by the benefits.
Hormone replacement therapy risks
- Breast cancer risk increased by 24 percent with combined estrogen / progestin HRT
- Risk of ischemic stroke increased by 41 percent with medium to high dose HRT, but much less risk with ultra low dose hormone replacement
- Heart attack risk increases by 29 percent for those taking HRT
- Slightly increased risk of ovarian cancer when only estrogen is taken for more than 10 years
- Twenty-one percent increased risk of kidney stones
- Higher risk of developing gall stones
Hormone replacement benefits
- Relief of menopause related complaints
- Increases bone density
- Reduces risk for colon-rectal cancer
- Decreases risk of macular (eye) degeneration and loss of vision associated with aging
The side effects of HRT
Side effects are generally considered to be any temporary complaints that are experienced while taking a drug. Side effects often resolve soon after stopping the medication. Using this description, the side effects of hormone replacement are not well known. These side effects vary depending on which combination of hormones one is taking and the specific synthetic forms used. Some of the more common side effects of prescriptive forms of estrogen, progesterone and combinations of both are as follows.
- Breast pain, enlargement and tenderness is associated with the stimulatory effect of estrogen
- Nausea and vomiting with the use of estrogen HRT taken by mouth
- Vaginal bleeding can occur in association with oral estrogen
- Darkened skin spots tend to occur on the face
- Headaches of a migraine type are associated with taking synthetic progesterone or progestins
- Depression is a common complaint that is found to be a result of taking progestins
- Greasy skin and acne are also associated with progestin use
Women are wisely looking for alternatives to hormone replacement. Fearing the risks associated with it, added to the side effects of prescriptive hormones, they are not too excited by it. Researchers and academics argue for and against hormone replacement.
The author's of a 2008 study titled the Women's International Study of Long-Duration Oestrogen after the Menopausesuggested that their study demonstrated such significant benefits for relief of menopause complaints that HRTshould be reconsidered by many women.
One of their colleagues (not an author of the study) reviewed the results of their study and came up with the opposite conclusion. Underscoring her concerns regarding the risks of hormone replacement therapy, Professor Anne Kavanagh of the University of Melbourne recently countered their claims as to the benefits of hormone replacement therapy. Professor Kavanagh points out that the study did not show and overall improvement in the "quality of life" for women in the study.