For some, the idea of Hormone Replacement Therapy sounds like the plot of a new science-fiction movie; and this controversial option is not without its critics. However, many menopausal women find that this form of treatment alleviates the insufferable symptoms of an inevitable life passage they’re forced to face. Menopause is an eventuality that all women have to face, but it may come as some comfort that there are treatments available to make the transition quite seamless.
Around the time that the body experiences the “change of life,” the production of the estrogen hormone slows down significantly. According to MayoClinic.org, Systemic hormone therapy can be administered in a patch, spray, or gel; it’s extremely successful at eradicating the hot flashes, vaginal discomfort (dryness, itching, painful intercourse), and bone loss, that accompany this transition of the female body.
In fact, studies published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine maintain that HRT is an efficient and well-tolerated remedy. For those sensitive to hormones, low-dose estrogen treatments are also available in cream form. However, they don’t address some of the more irksome symptoms, such as night sweats.
In recent years, there has been a focus on Bio-Identical hormones – which are compounds that possess the same molecular & chemical structure as the body’s natural hormones. Derived from a natural plant chemical extract present in yams and soy, they are synthesized in a lab for enhanced absorption in the body. Advocates of BHRT argue that these hormones make it easier to monitor patient’s levels and progress, because they’re metabolized and recorded the same way that our natural ovarian-produced hormones – estradiol, estrone, and estriol – are.
One thing that is important to mention is that not everything that’s “natural” is necessarily safer for humans – take quicksilver (mercury) for example. And while that’s a radical example, when it comes to medical treatments – it’s best not to use blanket statements. According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) and the Endocrine Society, Bio-Identical Hormone Therapy (BRHT) isn’t safer or more effective than the standard, FDA-approved HRT. However, it does allow the opportunity for physicians to compound, or customize, a drug for patients with specific medical restrictions (i.e., someone allergic to certain dyes or ingredients). But buyer beware: these compounded products aren’t “standardized”, so the FDA can’t give their stamp of approval to these varieties of hormones.
Your previous medical history will play an important role in deciding which specific HRT is right for you. Women going through natural menopause will usually be prescribed a blend of progesterone & estrogen. Upping the body’s reserves of estrogen alone can be risky, as it triggers an overgrowth of endometrial cells. When these cells aren’t expelled (as they are during menstruation), it can result in cancer of the uterus. Those who have undergone a hysterectomy, resulting in surgical menopause, are able to safely take estrogen by itself.
No matter which HRT is recommended for you, it’s not a long-term solution – but rather an answer for the short-term management of symptoms. Physicians will typically start by prescribing the lowest possible dose for the shortest period of time – until they see how well a patient’s body reacts to treatment. It’s important to work with your doctor, as there’s no cookie-cutter remedies when it comes to managing menopausal symptoms.
Are you a peri- or post-menopausal woman looking to mitigate bothersome symptoms? Pay a visit to the expert clinicians at University OB/GYN Associates. Affiliated with SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, their Gynecologists offer cutting-edge treatments designed to improve your quality of life. For more information, call (315) 464-5162.
1The North American Menopause Society