As aging takes its toll, every woman will face menopause. To be precise enough, the term menopause stands for the last period woman had, but it is followed by a post menopausal phase when the body reacts to the changes.
The underlying cause of post menopause is decreased and finally stopped function of ovaries when the production of eggs is stopped, as well as the secretion of female hormones, estrogen, and progesterone.
All these changes mark the end of reproductive function of the woman and in the years ahead she might struggle various symptoms caused by lack of hormones.
These symptoms usually include some general body reactions, such as body temperature variations, hot flashes, night sweating, insomnia, depression, anxiety and thinning of bones that could cause fractures. The local vaginal symptoms can, also, occur. This includes itching, dryness of vaginal mucous and painful intercourse.
Menopause usually occurs sometime in between the age of 45 and 55, but it is highly individual. It is usually predictable, according to some changes in the period preceding the last period. After twelve months of not having periods, the woman has officially entered the post menopausal phase, and it is time to consider potential need for hormone replacement therapy.
What is HRT?
After ovaries have stopped their normal function and there is no more producing of natural hormones, doctors may prescribe medications containing either estrogen itself or both, estrogen and progesterone.
The hormonal replacement therapy is an attempt to compensate the deficiency of the natural hormones, to suppress and control the symptoms of post menopause and to prevent long terms effects of it.
There are several different methods and various products used to replace natural hormones, but the therapy, in general, can be applied as systemic or local.
Systemic hormone therapy usually comes in the form of pills, and it is an effective treatment for all symptoms, including hot flashes, bloating, mood changes, vaginal dryness, and bone thinning. The local low – dose products are applied directly into the vagina in the form of gel, cream or ring, and it can prevent and control local, vaginal symptoms, but it has no influence on other symptoms.
The therapy can substitute only estrogen or estrogen and progesterone, and there are many criteria for the right choice. Roughly speaking, the progesterone should be added to all the women who still have their uterus, because estrogen can cause the malignant growth of endometrium if not balanced with progesterone. If the woman has gone through hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus), the estrogen can be enough.
You shouldn’t use hormones if you don’t have to
Once prescribed routinely, hormone therapy isn’t so widely used anymore nowadays. This is due to some long term side effects and health risks found to be caused by prolonged using of HRT.
Administration of the combination of estrogen and progesterone seems to have less damaging effects than using of estrogen itself, but it’s not without risks either.
Two major problems of hormone therapy are risks of malignant diseases and cardiovascular accidents. Women who use this therapy are at higher risk of breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and liver cancer, as well as at higher risk of heart attack, stroke and blood clotting.
This is why the decision about accepting this treatment should be carefully considered with the doctor and pharmacist, after comparing possible benefits and health risks in every individual case.