Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Benefits and Risks

What is hormone replacement therapy and how can it help to relieve symptoms of menopause? Read on to find out!


What is Menopause?

Women usually begin to produce less oestrogen and progesterone — female sex hormones that regulate the skin condition, bone development, sexual growth, and menstrual cycle — between the ages of 45 and 55, before production of these hormones stop altogether. This usually signals the start of a condition known as menopause, which marks the end of a woman’s reproductive period.

Before the onset of menopause, you may experience some symptoms associated with fluctuating levels of oestrogen and progesterone in your body. These symptoms include: 
Hot flushes
Night sweats
Interrupted sleep
Vaginal dryness
Irritability and mood swings
Reduced sex drive

Some women may also experience more critical symptoms such as osteoporosis and heart disease. 

Thankfully, hormone replacement therapy offers an avenue of relief for women dealing with these symptoms. However, it is important to remember that hormonal changes are part and parcel of a woman's life. Many women undergo the process of menopause with minimal discomfort and without need for hormone replacement therapy.

What is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)?

Hormone replacement therapy is a form of therapy that is used to restore hormonal balance in women and treat symptoms associated with menopause. 

Most women take a combination of two hormones: oestrogen and progestin, a synthetic or naturally occurring form of the female hormone progesterone. However, women who have undergone a hysterectomy will only need oestrogen.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Benefits 

Some potential benefits of hormone therapy include:
Relief of short-term symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes, night sweats, interrupted sleep, irritability and mood swings
Improvement of cholesterol levels 
Delay of natural bone loss and osteoporosis
Prevention of bone fractures in the hip and spine caused by osteoporosis

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Risks

While hormone replacement therapy offers relief from some symptoms of menopause, it may also increase the risk of other conditions. 

These vary from short-term side effects such as vaginal discharge, headaches, nausea, bloating and weight gain to long-term health risks. Some long-term risks of HRT include:
Endometrial cancer: women who use hormone replacement therapy that contains oestrogen without progestin may face a higher risk of endometrial cancer, or a cancer that develops from the uterus lining. Adding progestin to your dosage of oestrogen can reduce this risk significantly as progestin helps to prevent the overgrowth of cells in the uterus lining 
Breast cancer: some studies suggest that using hormone replacement therapy for more than 10 years may increase a woman's risk of breast cancer
Increased density of breast: hormone replacement therapy can add weight to a woman's breast. However, while women with naturally dense breasts have a higher risk of breast cancer, it is not known if increased breast density due to hormone replacement therapy carries the same risk
Heart disease: hormone replacement therapy may increase the risk of an early heart attack or death in women with heart diseases
Blood clots: hormone replacement therapy may increase a woman's risk of developing blood clots, which may lead to problems such as deep vein thrombosis

Deciding on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

Hormone replacement therapy is a complex form of therapy that comes with many risks. As such, it is crucial that you consult your doctor before deciding whether or not to undergo it.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:
How affected are you by short-term menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings, night sweats and irritability?
What are your risks for stroke, osteoporosis and heart disease? 
What are your risks for endometrial and breast cancers? 
Do you have a family history of these diseases?

Before deciding to continue with hormone replacement therapy, you should first review your decision with a doctor during an annual check-up. Those who decide not to receive hormone replacement therapy should still continue to go for breast and vaginal examinations every year, as well as Pap smear tests and mammograms.

Women who are currently on hormone replacement therapy should not be unduly alarmed. You are advised to discuss any potential risks for specific conditions with your doctor.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Benefits and Risks

 Catalog-Item Reuse

Back to Top