It’s not the fountain of youth, but hormone replacement therapy can help relieve the bothersome symptoms that often accompany menopause, says Beaufort Memorial gynecologist Eve Ashby, DO. Here, she answers some common questions.
|Eve Ashby, DO|
Q: What is hormone replacement therapy?
A: During menopause, the body produces less estrogen and progesterone. Decreasing levels of estrogen can cause a variety of symptoms, including hot flashes, sleep problems and vaginal dryness. In hormone replacement therapy (HRT), estrogen—in the form of a pill, skin patch, gel, cream or spray— is given to alleviate the symptoms. Women with a uterus also must take progestin (a progesterone-like medication) to decrease the risk of developing uterine cancer.
Q: Are there any other benefits to HRT?
A: The risk of breaking a bone at the hip or in the spine due to osteoporosis is lower in women on hormone therapy. However, HRT is not recommended for the prevention or treatment of osteoporosis. For women who develop depression for the first time during the few years leading up to menopause, some studies have shown that estrogen treatment can help to improve mood and decrease depression. Estrogen treatment also is very effective for improving sleep in women who are experiencing night sweats.
Q: What are the risks of HRT?
A: Women who were 60 or older or became menopausal more than 10 years before starting hormone therapy have an increased risk of having a heart attack. There is also a small increased risk of developing breast cancer if you take the combined estrogen-progestin therapy for more than five or six years.
Q: Who should take hormone therapy?
Most experts agree that hormone therapy is safe for healthy women who have menopausal symptoms. If you decide to take hormones, you should take them for the shortest period possible.
Q: Who should avoid hormones?
HRT is not recommended for women with coronary disease or a current or past history of breast cancer, or for women who have had a blood clot, heart attack or stroke, or are at high risk for these complications.
Make an Appointment
Board-certified gynecologist Dr. Eve Ashby sees gynecology patients at Beaufort Memorial Lowcountry Medical Group. To make an appointment, call 843-770-0404.