Some women can use hormone therapy to help control their symptoms. In the past, it was also called hormone replacement therapy. For most women, hormone therapy involves two hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Women who had a hysterectomy only need to take estrogen. They do not need to take progesterone.
Prescription estrogens are man-made hormones that, depending on the product, can be identical or very similar to women’s natural hormones.
Hormone therapy can help with severe symptoms of menopause and prevent bone loss. The Miami VA Healthcare System pharmacy carries estrogen pills and patches and progesterone pills. As with other medications, there might be risks to taking hormone therapy.
- Reduce hot flashes, night sweats, and other problems such as poor sleep and irritability
- Treat vaginal dryness and discomfort, and pain during sex
- Slow bone loss
- Improve mood swings and mild depressive symptoms (please note that it is NOT an antidepressant— talk with your doctor if you are having symptoms of depression).
For some women, hormone therapy may increase their chances of:
- Blood clots
- Heart attack
- Breast cancer
- Gall bladder disease
Research into hormone therapy continues. A recent study suggests that the low-dose patch form of hormone therapy may be less risky for stroke than higher hormone doses given in a pill. Talk with your doctor about pros and cons of hormone therapy based on your age and medical history. Remember that you once you stop using hormone therapy, your symptoms may return.
If you choose hormone therapy, experts recommend that you:
- Use it at the lowest dose that helps improve your symptoms
- Use it for the shortest time needed (no more than 5 years)
Things to consider:
- Hormone therapy is only as a short-term treatment.
- Doctors almost never prescribe hormone therapy to prevent diseases like osteoporosis. There are medications that are specific for that.
- Women who are in menopause should not take hormone therapy to prevent heart disease. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, there are many medications to treat these conditions.
- Hormone therapy does not prevent long-term memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease.
Hormone therapy can cause side effects. Call your doctor if you have any of these problems after using hormone therapy:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Breast tenderness or swelling
- Mood changes
You should not use hormone therapy (HT) if you:
- May be pregnant
- Have problems with vaginal bleeding
- Have had certain kinds of cancers (such as breast and uterine cancer)
- Have had a stroke or heart attack
- Have had blood clots
- Have liver disease
- Have heart disease