Can Hormone Therapy Reduce My Menopausal Symptoms?

Apr 01, 2023
Can Hormone Therapy Reduce My Menopausal Symptoms?
If you’re heading into midlife and are dealing with the unpleasant symptoms menopause can bring, there’s hope. Hormone replacement therapy in one form or another can decrease symptoms and improve quality of life.

Estrogen is one of a group of hormones, signaling molecules important for normal sexual and reproductive development in women. Their primary source is a woman's ovaries, though the adrenal glands and fat cells also produce small amounts.

Estrogen not only regulates a woman’s menstrual cycle, but it also affects the urinary tract, bone density, breasts, skin and hair, pelvic muscles, and organ systems such as the musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular system, and brain. 

In short, estrogen is a major player in keeping your body functioning at peak efficiency.

In midlife, though, menopause comes calling, marking the end of a woman’s reproductive ability. This period is characterized by a steep drop in both estrogen and a related hormone, progesterone. Not surprisingly, this drop produces many uncomfortable effects, including loss of libido and vaginal atrophy, making sexual intercourse more painful. 

One way to avert the problem is through hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which restores a woman’s normal hormone levels.

At Primecare Family Practice, board-certified family practitioners Maryline Ongangi, APRN, FNP-C and Lewis Nyantika, APRN, FNP-C understand that this change of life is neither welcomed nor wanted, which is why they provide hormone therapy for their patients in the Arlington, Texas, area. Here’s how it works.

Perimenopause, menopause, and all they entail

We often describe menopause as a distinct episode in a woman’s life, but the truth is it’s preceded by a years-long period called perimenopause, which is when you start to experience the symptoms of lower hormone levels. 

Perimenopause begins as early as your late 30s or early 40s, with menopause — the point at which you haven’t had a menstrual period for 12 months — arriving at an average age of 51 in the United States.

During perimenopause, you may experience any or all of these symptoms:

  • Irregular periods
  • More frequent periods
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mood changes
  • Weight gain and slower metabolism
  • Thinning hair and dry skin
  • Loss of breast fullness

Irregular periods during perimenopause are common. Often, your period skips a month and then returns, or it may skip several months and then start monthly again for a few months. 

Despite having irregular periods, however, it’s still possible to get pregnant. If you don’t want to conceive, use some form of contraception.

How hormone replacement therapy reduces symptoms

There are two basic types of HRT:

1. Systemic hormone therapy

Systemic hormone therapy delivers relatively high doses of estrogen to your entire body, influencing all your systems. It can be administered by pill, patch, gel, ring, inserted pellet, creams, and sprays, and it reduces most common perimenopausal symptoms.

We use a synthetic version of the estrogen produced in the body (called bioidentical hormone therapy), and it’s available in all the same delivery systems as regular hormone therapy.

Systemic HRT can increase your risk of developing breast cancer and heart disease, which is why doctors generally prescribe HRT for the shortest possible period to manage your symptoms.

2. Low-dose hormone therapy

Low-dose products are for topical use in the vagina, and they come in creams, tablets, or rings. Your body only absorbs low amounts of estrogen, and the hormone doesn’t migrate from the application area, decreasing the risks associated with high-dose HRT treatments.

On the flip side, these products only treat the vaginal and urinary symptoms of menopause, which include dryness, laxity, and stress incontinence.

HRT therapy can help:

  • Decrease night sweats and hot flashes
  • Give you better sleep
  • Ease vaginal dryness, itching, and laxity
  • Decrease painful intercourse

Since systemic HRT restores estrogen to all the systems it normally benefits, it may also decrease your chances of developing certain health conditions. Systemic HRT can:

  • Prevent osteoporosis (thinning bones) and related compression fractures
  • Lower your risk for dementia
  • Lower your risk for developing diabetes
  • Lower your risk for developing colon cancer
  • Reduce joint pain
  • Lower the death rate for women in their 50s

Although an increased heart disease risk is one of the side effects of systemic HRT, in some women, it actually decreases the risk.

Tired of dealing with uncomfortable menopausal symptoms? Primecare Family Practice can help. To get started, call us at 817-873-3710, or book online with us today.