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Hormone Therapy: What It Is and How It Can Help You

As you age, your hormone levels naturally decline. This can lead to several changes in your body, including hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, and low sex drive. Hormone therapy can help offset these changes by replenishing the oestrogen levels in your body.

If you're considering hormone replacement therapy, it's essential to understand how it works. This article will give you a detailed overview of hormone therapy, including how it's used, its benefits and risks, and what to expect.

What is Hormone Therapy?

HRT is a treatment that replaces or supplements the hormones in your body. It's also known as estrogen replacement therapy or menopausal hormone therapy.

For women, hormone therapy is most commonly used to treat the symptoms of menopause. These symptoms occur when the ovaries stop producing estrogen, the hormone that regulates menstruation.

Hormone therapy can also help treat other hormonal imbalances. These include conditions like hypothyroidism-when the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormones.

How Does Hormone Therapy Work?

Hormone therapy works by replenishing the hormones in your body. For example, if you're going through menopause, hormone therapy can replace the estrogen that your ovaries are no longer producing.

There are two ways that hormone therapy can be administered: 
  • Systemic hormone therapy: Oestrogen is taken in pill form or as a patch. It enters the bloodstream and can treat symptoms throughout the body.
  • Local hormone therapy: Oestrogen is usually applied directly to the vagina in the form of a cream, ring, or tablet. It treats symptoms in the vagina and surrounding tissues.

What Are the Benefits of Hormone Therapy?

Hormone replacement therapy comes with many benefits, including:
  • Relief from menopausal symptoms: The most common use for estrogen replacement therapy is to relieve the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.
  • Improved bone density: Oestrogen helps to keep bones strong. When levels of this hormone decline, it can lead to osteoporosis. Hormone therapy can help prevent this by increasing bone density.
  • Reduced risk of heart disease: Oestrogen has a protective effect on the heart. When oestrogen levels reduce, heart disease risks increase. Oestrogen replacement can help reduce this risk.

What Are the Risks of Hormone Therapy?

HRT is generally safe, but it has some risks. These include:
  • Blood clots: Oestrogen can increase the chances of blood clots. This risk is higher if you're overweight, have diabetes, or smoke cigarettes.
  • Breast cancer: There's some evidence that oestrogen replacement therapy can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Stroke: There's also evidence that oestrogen therapy can increase the risk of stroke.
Note: It's important to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of hormone therapy before starting treatment.

What to Expect With Hormone Therapy

If you're considering HRT, the first step is to schedule an appointment with your doctor. They'll ask about your symptoms and medical history and do a physical examination.

Your physician may also order blood tests to check your hormone levels. They may also recommend a bone density test to check for osteoporosis.

They’ll then prescribe a treatment plan if hormone therapy is right for you. This usually involves taking oestrogen replacement pills or using a vaginal cream, ring, or tablet.

You'll need to see your doctor for regular checkups to ensure the hormone therapy is working and that you're not experiencing any side effects.
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