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What is Hormone Replacement Therapy?

By David Chandler

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a medical treatment that combines estrogen and progestin to restore the premenopausal levels of estrogen. Hormone replacement therapy is prescribed for protection against osteoporosis and heart disease, and relief of menopausal symptoms.

Benefits

It has been well documented for several decades that Hormone replacement therapy is the most effective remedy for the hot flashes and sleep disturbances that often accompany menopause Hormone replacement therapy has also consistently been shown to decrease vaginal discomfort by increasing the thickness, elasticity, and lubricating ability of vaginal tissue. Urinary tract tissue also becomes thicker and more elastic, reducing the incidence of stress incontinence and urinary tract infections.

Some women and their doctors report that Hormone replacement therapy can be helpful in relieving the depression and mood swings that may occur during menopause and can produce a general sense of well-being and increased energy. Also, some find that Hormone replacement therapy increases skin thickness and elasticity, decreasing the appearance of wrinkles. While Hormone replacement therapy was used initially to reduce the discomfort from short-term menopausal symptoms, recent studies provide evidence that it may also reduce some of the negative long-term health effects of menopause. Scientists are continuing to gather information to define the potential benefits from Hormone replacement therapy and to identify the women for whom it may be most useful. Further research will also be needed to show when Hormone replacement therapy should be started and how long it should be continued to achieve the greatest benefits.

Drawbacks:

While Hormone replacement therapy has potential benefits, it also can have drawbacks. Some of the side-effects of Hormone replacement therapy are: vaginal bleeding, breast pain, nausea, cramping, headaches, fluid retention, vaginal discharge, depression, irritability, weight gain and bloating. A few months adjustment period is often necessary for women beginning this therapy. Every woman entering menopause should have a physical examination and then talk with her doctor about her overall health, her family history and her physical and psychological concerns. Working with your doctor to assess your risk factors accurately should help you determine whether the benefits of this therapy outweigh the risks for you personally. If you are concerned about Hormone replacement therapy, consider other effective non-medical therapies for addressing your needs, and seek a second opinion before initiating a course of treatment.


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