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What Are Hormone Replacement Medications?

What Are Hormone Replacement Medications?

December 14, 2022
What Are Hormone Replacement Medications?

Hormone replacement medications are most often used to treat common menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and vaginal discomfort. However, there are risks associated with using hormone medications. These risks depend on the type of hormone medications, the dose, how long it is taken, and your health risks. For best results, hormone therapy should be tailored to each person and re-evaluated every so often to be sure the benefits still outweigh the risks.

What Is Hormone Replacement Medication?

Hormone replacement medication contains female hormones. You take the medication to replace the estrogen that your body stops making during menopause. This type of therapy is most often used to treat common menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and vaginal discomfort.

Hormone replacement medication mainly focuses on replacing the estrogen that your body no longer makes after menopause. There are two main types of estrogen therapy:

  • Systemic Hormone Therapy. This typically contains a higher dose of estrogen that is absorbed throughout the body. It can be used to treat any of the common symptoms of menopause.
  • Low-Dose Vaginal Products. Low-dose vaginal preparations of estrogen minimize the amount of estrogen absorbed by the body. Because of this, low-dose vaginal preparations are usually only used to treat the vaginal and urinary symptoms of menopause.

If you haven’t had your uterus removed, your doctor will usually prescribe estrogen along with progesterone or progestin. This is because estrogen alone, when not balanced by progesterone, can stimulate the growth of the lining of the uterus which increases the risk of endometrial cancer. If you have had your uterus removed, you may not need to take progestin.

What Are The Side Effects Of Hormone Replacement Medications?

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Many side effects depend on which type of treatment you receive. For example, treatments that keep the body from making or using the hormone estrogen may cause symptoms commonly seen with menopause. But, the side effects of hormone therapy can be different from person to person, even on the same prescription.

Here is a general list of possible side effects of hormone therapy. It is important to note that you should talk with your healthcare team about what is commonly based on your prescription.

Sexual health concerns. Hormone therapy can cause low sex drive and problems reaching an orgasm. It can also cause erectile dysfunction.

  • Vaginal and menstruation changes. The therapy can include vaginal dryness, discharge, itching, or irritation. It can also cause changes to the menstrual cycle and cause vaginal bleeding that is not related to a period.
  • Hot flashes and night sweats. These are very common for people receiving hormone therapy.
  • Bone health risk. Certain types of hormone therapies can cause osteoporosis, which is thinning of the bones. This makes bones more fragile and, in some cases, more likely to fracture or break. 
  • Mood changes. These can include depression or mood swings. 
  • Fatigue. Hormone therapy may cause fatigue. The medical term for this is cancer-related fatigue. It is a feeling of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion, even if you are getting enough rest and sleep. 
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms. Your gastrointestinal (GI) tract plays a central role in digesting food and liquid and in processing waste. Hormone therapy can cause GI symptoms such as constipation, which means stools are less frequent or hard to pass. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Changes in thinking and memory. Some people may have trouble thinking or remembering things during hormone therapy. Doctors call these cognitive problems.
  • Infertility. Surgical hormone therapy can permanently affect fertility. Fertility is the biological ability to have a child. If you have fertility concerns, talk with your doctor before treatment begins. 
  • Higher risk for other health issues. Certain hormone therapies increase the risk of other health concerns. They can include blood clots, strokes, cataracts, heart attacks, and strokes. They can also increase the risk of uterine cancer.

What Are Its Benefits?

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The main benefit of hormone replacement medication is that it can help relieve most menopausal symptoms, such as:

  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Mood swings
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Reduced sex drive

It can also help prevent thinning of the bones, which can lead to fracture. Osteoporosis is more common after menopause.

An additional benefit when you take this recommended hormone replacement medication:

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