The Basics of Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a set of treatments that infuse the body with hormones that aren’t produced naturally. This usually occurs in females during the menopausal years. Menopause occurs at the tail-end of a woman’s reproductive years, usually in the late 40s and older. Doctors diagnose a woman with menopause after going at least 12 months without a period. After receiving a menopause diagnosis, doctors may suggest HRT to women suffering from severe symptoms.
Menopause occurs when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. The monthly release of an egg is called the menstrual cycle and this process starts when a woman is in puberty. During this time, the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone are in full swing. However, once a woman reaches middle age, the ovaries start producing less estrogen and progesterone which leads to irregular menstrual cycles and other symptoms.
Women may even experience these symptoms during perimenopause, before actual menopause occurs. Some common symptoms associated with menopause include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Thinning hair
- Slow metabolism
These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can negatively impact a woman’s life. In these instances, doctors may prescribe HRT to manage menopause symptoms.
When should I start HRT?
The decision to start HRT is a personal one that requires a consultation with a healthcare provider. A provider can examine the patient and explain HRT treatments. HRT comes in a few different forms. Patients can take pills, creams, gels, or skin patches. Taking the medication orally or topically offers different results. Topical treatments may relieve immediate symptoms like vaginal dryness while oral treatments can help with night sweats and mood swings. Estrogen also has other effects. Research suggests that hormone therapy may help to prevent heart diseases and colon cancer in some patients.
Consult a healthcare provider
For any questions concerning HRT, speak to healthcare provider who is experienced with women’s health. An endocrinologist, gynecologist, or fertility specialist is a good choice. Typically, these doctors prescribe HRT to women in the 50s or 60s when menopause symptoms start to become more intense. Patients can discuss exact timing for the start of a HRT with a trusted healthcare provider.