For women in or approaching menopause, the cluster of symptoms they develop can be surprising and distressing. Hot flashes, hair thinning, and vaginal dryness are only a few of the body changes that can accompany the cessation of menses. In the past, many women used hormone replacement therapy to combat these issues, but concerns of increased health risks have had many women and doctors reluctant to use this option. However, in many instances, hormone replacement can be effectively and safely used.
The risks of hormone replacement therapy, now known just as hormone therapy, are pretty well known. Blood clots, stroke, heart attack, and breast cancer were all linked to HRT back around 2002. Many doctors now feel that the risk was exaggerated and the study's results overblown. However, women and their doctors were frightened enough to give up HRT. As a result, women suffered for years from hot flashes and sometimes painful sex when they really didn't need to do so. New approaches to prescribing hormones make the practice safer than ever.
New Hormone Therapy
Recently, the medical community has shifted back toward prescribing hormones for post-menopausal women. In fact, some studies have shown that taking estrogen in the early post-menopausal years may actually reduce the risk of heart disease instead of increasing it. Estrogen or estrogen/progesterone replacement also helps prevent osteoporosis. Modern hormone treatment usually involves smaller doses of estrogen than were given in the past, reducing the likelihood of complications.
Pills, creams, and patches can be used by women to eliminate or reduce hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and painful intercourse. These methods are considered systemic treatments and do allow more absorption of the hormone or hormones into your system. Other low-dose methods are inserted directly into the vagina, such as rings or creams. These medications are less likely to be absorbed into your body, but they only relieve urinary and vaginal symptoms. They do not help with hot flashes or night sweats.
Safe menopausal treatments do exist, and your OBGYN can give you information on all of the options that are appropriate for you. Do not fall prey to the myth that all hormone treatment is dangerous. An overreaction to the dangers occurred over a decade ago, but new research shows that proper use of hormone replacement can actually reduce your risk of heart disease while relieving the worst symptoms of menopause. Contact your doctor, like Bay Area Women's Care, to find out the best treatment for you.