Estradiol patches are placed on the skin to deliver the medication estradiol transdermally, or into the body through the skin. Estradiol is a form of estrogen, a hormone that the body produces naturally. A doctor may prescribe estradiol patches to menopausal women who cannot make enough of this hormone naturally. The patches may also help prevent bone loss, or osteoporosis.
Before using a hormone replacement therapy (HRT), patients should discuss serious health risks with their doctors. Those using estradiol patches for osteoporosis should only use the lowest possible dose and they must try other osteoporosis medications first. Women who only experience vaginal menopausal symptoms should consider using an HRT that is applied directly to the vagina. Taking estrogen hormones may increase the risk of developing uterine, ovarian, and breast cancer, as well as dementia, blood clots, and stroke. These risks are elevated in patients who use hormone replacement therapy for a long period of time and in large dosages.
Patients should follow a dosing schedule that their doctors recommend. A doctor may instruct the patient to wear a patch continuously, or to wear the patch for three weeks, followed by one week of discontinued treatment. Each patch is used for one week before it will need to be replaced. They are generally worn on the lower abdomen, hips, or buttocks, depending on the brand. Patients must be careful not to touch the side of the patch that faces down with their fingers.
Some side effects may occur with the use of estradiol patches, which should be reported to the prescribing physician if they become severe. These can include nausea, vomiting, and flatulence, along with constipation and heartburn. Breast tenderness or pain, painful menstrual periods, and vaginal discharge is also possible. Other patients have noticed changes in sexual desire, unusual hair growth, and changes in weight. Estradiol patches may also cause a darkening of the skin, which can become permanent, along with congestion, redness or irritation of the skin, and problems wearing contact lenses.
More serious side effects require a doctor's urgent care. Patients should go to the hospital immediately if they experience uncontrollable movements, bulging eyes, and jaundice. Fever, stomach pain or swelling, and loss of appetite have also been reported. This type of hormone replacement therapy may infrequently cause problems breathing or swallowing, rash or skin blisters, and severe mental or mood changes.
Before using estradiol patches, patients should disclose their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements. It should never be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Estradiol patches may also be contraindicated for use by those who have diabetes, epilepsy, or endometriosis. Other medications may interact with it, including antifungals, dexamethasone, and St. John's wort.