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Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is typically associated with female menopause. After menopause, hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone either stop being produced or levels reduce significantly. The body may react to the change in hormones with hot flashes, reduced libido, and dry skin. Men may also suffer from reduced testosterone and require HRT.
Estrogen is one of the most common forms of HRT prescribed to women after natural menopause. The hormone replacement therapy side effects associated with estrogen may include headache, nausea, and vaginal discharge. Severe side effects are rare but include stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer. Breast cancer is an estrogen-based cancer that uses estrogen to grow.
In surgical menopause or hysterectomy cases wherein the uterus is removed, progesterone HRT may be prescribed. Progesterone can be prescribed as a pill, gel, or insert. Hormone replacement side effects differ with each type of progesterone therapy. The progesterone pill carries such potential reactions as bloating, breast tenderness, and diarrhea. If a gel is used, women may suffer from breast enlargement, constipation, or cramping. Progesterone inserts may cause drowsiness, fluid retention, or headache as well.
Testosterone is present in the female body in smaller amounts than in males, but it is just as important as estrogen and progesterone. Female libido is driven by testosterone, and if levels dip after menopause, the woman may feel a change in sex drive. Testosterone HRT can be prescribed to boost libido after menopause. The potential hormone replacement therapy side effects associated with testosterone include fluid retention, increased hair growth, and lowered voice pitch.
Male testosterone levels fall with age. Menopause in men is typically referred to as andropause or male menopause. Testosterone therapy can reduce the symptoms associated with this natural reduction in male hormones. In men, potential hormone replacement therapy side effects may include breast enlargement, infertility, and sleep apnea.
When choosing HRT, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of hormone supplementation. For example, men may feel the symptoms of andropause, such as mood changes, reduced muscle strength, and increased fat stores, are far worse than the potential hormone replacement therapy side effects. Women must also make a personal choice in terms of HRT.
In some cases, HRT is not a viable solution. Women who have suffered from breast cancer or other form of estrogen dependent cancer are not typically advised to use HRT. Men who have a history of prostate cancer or breast cancer are not viable candidates for testosterone therapy due to potential life-threatening hormone replacement therapy side effects.