Drawbacks of Hormone Replacement Therapy

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has long been touted as the magic bullet for combating the unpleasant symptoms of menopause. The idea is simple; replace the lack of estrogen and progesterone being produced within the body with an external source. However, as with any other medical treatment protocol, there are side effects, some serious.

The first thing you should understand is how hormone replacement therapy works. In a nutshell, estrogen and progestin are administered to a woman entering into menopause via pill, capsule or transdermal patch form. A progestin only formula can also be delivered via intrauterine device implantation. The protocol can be administered as a continuous dose or cyclic and the dose of hormones can vary based on patient tolerance and severity of symptoms.

Using a hormone replacement therapy helps to prevent the onset of osteoporosis as well as reduce the symptoms associated with menopause.

While most medical communities agree that the side effects of using a hormone replacement therapy are minimal, they do occur and include such conditions as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, clots, and dementia. There are no tests to determine your susceptibility to developing such conditions. HRT can also contribute to the development of coronary disease in women that are ten years beyond the onset of menopause.

Because of these side effects, the FDA has recommended that women who begin HRT should consider it a temporary treatment and use the lowest dose possible to achieve therapeutic results. Many doctors have begun shying away from prescribing HRT to their patients and will only do so when the risk of osteoporosis outweighs the risks of taking HRT.

Other, less serious side effects mimic those of contraceptive hormones and include irregular vaginal bleeding, headaches, nausea, weight gain, breast tenderness and the darkening of the facial skin. The use of progestin can cause mood changes, headache, abdominal pain, dizziness, and diarrhea. An additional side effect of using the transdermal patch can include skin irritation.

In light of the long term health considerations as well as short term discomfort that can be caused by HRT, many doctors are now recommending that their patients pursue other avenues for relief including balancing their diet, losing weight, getting exercise and adding things like soy, meditation, and multivitamins to their daily lives in order to help them cope with their menopause symptoms without the added stress of potential long-term health concerns. If you are taking hormone replacement therapy or are considering it, talk with your doctor to determine if another treatment may be more beneficial.

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