Doctors typically use hormone replacement therapy for menopause to alleviate disruptive symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Hormone replacement therapy for menopause may also be used to prevent health problems that sometimes accompany menopause, including heart disease and osteoporosis. Many doctors use both estrogen and progestin, which is a synthetic form of progesterone, when treating menopause.
Menopause occurs when a female stops ovulating and having monthly menstruation. The onset of menopause can depend on family history, but it usually begins when a woman is in her 50s or 60s. Some women experience severe symptoms during menopause due to reduced production of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Hormone replacement therapy for menopause works to replenish and balance hormones and alleviate the symptoms.
In most cases, hormone replacement therapy comes in tablet form. The pills are available by prescription and usually contain a combination of estrogen and progestin. Hormone replacement therapy pills typically come in a blister pack containing a month’s worth of drugs. Dosage may vary throughout the month, with some pills being all estrogen and others containing a mixture of estrogen and progestin.
Hormone replacement therapy for menopause can also come in the form of a cream, skin patch or suppository. Creams generally contain estrogen and progesterone and can be applied vaginally to reduce symptoms, especially vaginal dryness or irritation. In the case of a skin patch, the doses of estrogen are absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin. Patches are typically worn for a specific length of time, with differing dosages being administered throughout the treatment.
The symptoms of menopause can include depression, hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, sleep disruption and vaginal dryness or discomfort. Hormone replacement therapy may alleviate some of the symptoms, but it does not treat the depression or emotional problems that may occur due to drastic hormonal changes. Some women experience anxiety because the onset of menopause means they can no longer have children. Doctors generally treat emotional or psychological problems separately from hormone therapy.
Some controversy surrounds the use of hormone replacement therapy for menopause symptom relief. Research suggests that hormone treatments may increase the risk for stroke, heart attack, blood clots in the legs or lungs and breast cancer. Other studies show that hormone replacement can help reduce the risk for osteoporosis and heart disease. As with any medical treatment, the decision to undergo hormone replacement therapy is personal and should be discussed with a health care professional.