Hormone Therapy - Cherokee Women's Health

Hormone Therapy

What is hormone therapy?

Hormone therapy is the act of taking hormone medications to relieve symptoms of menopause.

What are hormones?

Hormones are made by glands in the body and are substances that stimulate certain cells, tissues, or organs into action.

Androgen hormones are made by the ovaries and testes. The ovaries use androgen to make estrogen from puberty until menopause.

How do estrogen levels change over time?

As females age, estrogen production decreases. At some point, the ovaries stop making enough estrogen to thicken the uterine lining. This is when menstrual periods stop and menopause begins. This typically occurs during the ages of 45-55.

If the ovaries are removed during surgery, estrogen levels will drop suddenly, bringing about the symptoms of menopause.

Women can take hormones to relieve symptoms of menopause.

How does estrogen affect the reproductive system?

For women, estrogen plays a key role in the reproductive system:

  • Changes in estrogen levels lead to menstrual periods
  • Estrogen is made during the entire menstrual cycle
  • Estrogen causes the uterine lining to thicken each month
  • Estrogen also affects bones and cardiovascular health.

What are some of the common symptoms of menopause?

Some symptoms that might occur with decreased estrogen levels are:

  • Vaginal dryness
  • Hot flashes
  • Osteoporosis (bone loss).

What are hot flashes?

A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat that spreads over the body and face. Skin may redden, like a blush, and sweating may occur. Hot flashes may last a few seconds to several minutes or longer. They may occur day or night several times a day or a few times a month. Estrogen can help relieve hot flashes.

How does loss of estrogen affect the vagina and urinary tract?

Changes within the vagina after a loss of estrogen may include:

  • The lining of the vagina can thin and dry out
  • The vagina can become more prone to infection, which may cause burning and itching
  • The changes within the urinary tract may include:It may become dry, inflamed, or irritated
  • Some women may need to urinate more often
  • There is an increased chance of bladder infection after menopause.
Hormone therapy can relieve any of these symptoms.

How does hormone therapy help protect against osteoporosis?

With women, osteoporosis may result from low estrogen levels. Estrogen helps to protect against bone loss.

Once you begin menopause, your bones slowly begin to lose strength. They become more fragile and more likely to break. The hip, wrist, and spine are most often affected.

Hormone therapy can help slow bone loss after menopause because estrogen helps preserve bone and works with other hormones to increase bone mass.

What are some factors that should be considered when deciding to take hormone therapy?

Deciding whether to take hormone therapy depends on your personal needs:

  • Symptoms
  • Medical and family history
  • Risk of bone less
  • Age at menopause.

How is hormone therapy administered?

If you still have your uterus, therapy includes both estrogen and progestin (another hormone)

  • Taking estrogen alone causes the uterine lining to grow too much and increases the risk of endometrial cancer.
  • Progestin prevents the uterine lining.

Hormone therapy can be given in many ways including:

  • Vaginally (cream, pill, or ring)
  • Orally
  • Transdermally (through the skin).

When you take your therapy, it depends on the type you are administered:

  • Cyclic therapy: Estrogen is taken for 25 days. Progestin is added on certain days, the exact time may vary. During the times you are not taking progestin, bleeding may occur.
  • Combined therapy: Estrogen and low dose progestin are taken every day. Irregular bleeding is common in the first few months. Within a year, bleeding should stop.
  • Estrogen only therapy: Estrogen is taken every day for 25 days per month or more.

What are the risks associated with the use of hormone therapy?

Hormone therapy may increase the risk of:

  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Blood clots
  • Breast cancer.

Risks vary depending on how far a woman is past menopause. It is recommended that the the smallest dose of hormone therapy be taken that works.

Take therapy for the shortest amount of time possible. Monthly bleeding may resume, which you may find bothersome.

Are there other options available that can treat menopause symptoms?

Some other options include:

  • Herbal products
  • Antidepressants
  • Bioidentical hormones.

These products have limited information about effectiveness. Some products are helpful in short-term treatment of symptoms. Some could cause harm. Herbal products and bioidentical hormones are not approved by the FDA.

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