Is Hormone Replacement Therapy Right for You?
Hot flashes. Mood swings. Insomnia. Vaginal dryness. These are just a few of the symptoms experienced by menopausal women. For some, these symptoms are bothersome but manageable. But for others, it dramatically impacts the quality of their lives. In those instances, it’s beneficial to talk to your doctor. There are treatments available that can help.
Why do I have these symptoms?
A woman’s ovaries produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone. During menopause, ovary function decreases, which results in a drop in these two hormones. This biological change is believed to cause many of the symptoms of menopause. For some women, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a safe and effective way to treat menopause symptoms.
What is HRT?
HRT are medications containing estrogen and sometimes progesterone (if you still have your uterus). Estrogen helps ease symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Progesterone is added to protect against uterine cancer. These medications come in many different forms, including pills, patches and creams.
Is HRT safe?
There’s a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to HRT. This is due in large part to a clinical trial published in 2002 that reported HRT increased a woman’s risk for breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. Understandably, women stopped taking HRT and doctors stopped prescribing it.
A second look at the study in 2012, by its initial investigators, revealed it was flawed in that it wasn’t a representative sample of healthy women just entering menopause. In fact, the average age of women in the study was 63. And, many had underlying health issues.
This second study reversed its original recommendation. It said HRT is safe for healthy women younger than 60 or within ten years of the onset of menopause. Sadly, this report didn’t receive nearly as much publicity as the first report, so much misinformation still exists.
It’s important to note, though, HRT isn’t safe for all women. Especially those with a history of stroke, blood clots, heart disease, and estrogen-fueled breast cancer. Bottom-line – only your doctor can determine if HRT is right for you.
Beware of custom-compounded hormones
Many women believe “natural” or “bioidentical” hormones made by compounding pharmacies are safer than FDA-approved hormones. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. These formulations haven’t been tested for safety, quality or effectiveness. And, insurance plans don’t cover the use of compounded hormones. So not only is there no proof of safety, they’re also costly.
Don’t suffer in silence
If menopause symptoms are taking a toll on your well-being, make an appointment with your doctor. He or she will look at your individual risks, benefits and preferences to determine if HRT is appropriate for you.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Provided by: Carol Lovins, MD, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Highpoint Health
To learn more, contact Dr. Lovins' office at 812-537-9100.