All About Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the medical treatment used to offset the symptoms and consequences of menopause. Women cease to go through their menstrual cycles as they approach middle age. At our facility, we offer bioidentical HRT. This is more natural compared to HRT using pharmaceutical drugs and supplements. For the best bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, come to Swiftwater Integrative Medicine. We focus on managing hormone levels to avoid the numerous unpleasant effects associated with their reduced levels.
What is HRT?
This is the medical treatment that individuals receive to replenish their natural hormones. Hormone replacement therapy is primarily concerned with sex hormones. These include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Estrogen and progesterone are critical for regulating many of the processes that occur in a woman’s body during her menstrual cycle. A girl’s body begins experiencing increased levels of estrogen and progesterone just before the onset of puberty. These hormones are responsible for the development of many of the female’s sexual characteristics like breast enlargement and the beginning of menses.
As the girl matures into a woman, the levels of these hormones fluctuate slightly from time to time. However, their average levels in the body remain the same. That is until the beginning of menopause. Menopause is when levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease significantly. A characteristic feature of it is the cessation of periods. Usually, some symptoms precede the complete cessation of periods. Symptoms may include hot flashes— a feeling of increased warmth over the face or neck. Hot flashes and other such symptoms are part of the perimenopausal stage.
Menopause means significantly reduced levels of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones have numerous benefits for a woman’s body. Therefore, a significant decrease in their levels poses certain health risks to a woman. Such risks include an increased probability of bone weakening (osteoporosis) and heart disease, among others.
By replenishing these hormones, HRT helps to decrease such health risks in menopausal women.
Types of HRT Administration
Administration of hormone replacement therapy can be general (systemic) or localized. Systemic administration means the hormone is given in such a way as to circulate throughout the body. Administering the therapy locally means the treatment is given in one particular body area.
Systemic administration of HRT means giving oral tablets or injections. The injections can be given just under the skin (subcutaneous) or deep into the muscle (intramuscularly). This type of HRT administration is ideal for alleviating generalized symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and painful sexual intercourse (dyspareunia).
Localized HRT administration is ideal for symptoms like vagina dryness. This involves the use of creams or tablets that are put inside the vagina to alleviate dryness. Another common effect of menopause is vaginal atrophy. Vaginal atrophy is when there is thinning and inflammation of the vaginal membrane. A reduced estrogen level is largely responsible for this condition. In addition to vaginal dryness, reduced estrogen levels also cause pain during sex. Localized HRT administration is ideal for such conditions.
In addition to creams, tablets, and injections, there are skin patches and rings. This is placed on your abdomen, where its contents gradually get absorbed into the body through the skin. Estrogen HRT is commonly administered using this method. Depending on the dosage of the patch, you may need to replace it every day or after a week.
Vaginal rings are inserted deep into the vagina. How often your doctor will change them will depend on their dosage. Most of them are left in place for about three months before being replaced.
HRT usually combines progesterone and estrogen as a single formulation. This is what is commonly known as combination therapy. Sometimes, estrogen is the only hormone used.
Side Effects of HRT
While hormone replacement therapy has several benefits like reducing incidences of dementia and osteoporosis, it also carries certain risks. Some of these risks include:
- i) Cancers: Getting breast cancer is a common side effect of prolonged hormone replacement therapy. Endometrial cancer is also a risk in postmenopausal women who still have a uterus. Both endometrial and breast cancer are known as estrogen-dependent cancers. This means that they rely on the presence of significant amounts of estrogen to grow.
- ii) Thrombosis: This is the development of blood clots within a blood vessel. Under normal circumstances, this should not happen. One of the side effects of HRT, especially estrogen-only therapy, is an increased risk of blood clot formation within blood vessels. A common example is deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT commonly occurs in the veins of the legs.
iii) Stroke: A stroke is when there is a decreased or interrupted blood supply to a particular part of the brain. This is a life-threatening condition that can quickly deteriorate into a coma or death. Being on HRT for a long time significantly increases the risk of stroke.
Other HRT side effects include nausea, vomiting, painful breasts, vaginal bleeding, and mood swings.
You can reduce your chances of developing many of the unpleasant side effects of HRT by doing the following things:
- i) Take as little of the HRT treatment as possible. It is okay if this minimum dose helps you deal with symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
- ii) Use progesterone-only HRT if your uterus has not been removed surgically.
iii) Endeavor to begin HRT before age 60 or within 10 years of menopause
- iv) Go for regular breast and endometrial cancer screening
When to Avoid HRT
Certain conditions don’t go well with hormone replacement therapy. These include:
- i) Pregnancy or suspected pregnancy
- ii) Cancers like breast, endometrial, or ovarian cancers
iii) A history of stroke or other blood conditions like DVT
- iv) Heart diseases and a history of heart attack
- iv) Liver and gallbladder diseases
- v) Unexplained vaginal bleeding or spotting
Of course, you should see your doctor before ever considering HRT. Your doctor will take a full medical history and determine your eligibility for it based on the findings.
HRT For Men
While most hormonal therapy interventions focus on women, men also experience decreased sex hormone levels as they age. While all types of sex hormones are present in male and female bodies, their levels differ. Women tend to have higher levels of estrogen and progesterone. Men tend to have higher levels of testosterone compared to women. H R T in men focuses on testosterone replenishment. Decreased testosterone levels manifest as a reduced sex drive, perpetual fatigue, diminished muscle tone, irritability, and a lack of motivation. HRT helps to alleviate these symptoms.
At Swiftwater Integrative Medicine, our goal is to help people with health issues like hormonal imbalance. Bioidentical HRT is one way through which we help people deal with the inevitable hormonal decrease. This type of HRT uses substances like phytoestrogen, a naturally occurring estrogen in plants. Its chemical structure is very similar to the estrogen found in the human body, hence the term “bioidentical.” Call us today to discuss your hormonal issues with one of our doctors. You can visit our site here https://www.swiftwatermedical.com/bioidentical-hormone-replacement-therapy/.
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Swiftwater Integrative Medicine, 413 N Main St,
Suite H Ellensburg WA 98926, 509-240-8676
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