Our Guide to Hormone Replacement Therapy, HRT Candidates, and Treatment

Woman at home using products for hormone replacement therapy

From physical changes like hot flashes to emotional challenges such as mood swings, menopause brings on many unwelcome symptoms. Some women find that these issues are manageable with home treatments and lifestyle management alone. But if you’re among the many women who find that menopause is disruptive to your quality of life, you could be a good candidate for hormone replacement therapy.

What Is Hormone Replacement Therapy?

Hormone replacement therapy (or “HRT,” and also known as simply “hormone therapy”), is a treatment for symptoms of menopause. As you approach menopause, your ovaries’ production of the hormone estrogen begins to slow down. While this change in your reproductive system is a normal part of aging, it brings a host of unpleasant symptoms, including:

  • Night sweats
  • Irregular periods
  • Vaginal dryness and painful intercourse
  • Hot flashes
  • Mood changes, which may include depression and irritability
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Urinary changes, which could include incontinence

The goal of HRT is to replace the estrogen your body is no longer producing in order to alleviate these symptoms.

Types of Hormone Replacement Therapy

HRT can be prescribed as an estrogen-only medication (ET), or as a combination treatment with both estrogen and progestogen (EPT). You may receive ET if you’ve had your uterus removed during a hysterectomy. The addition of progestogen is given to women who still have their uterus, to reduce the risk of endometrial cancer that may be increased when using estrogen alone.

There are two ways HRT can be administered: systemically, in which the medication travels through your entire body, or locally (to target vaginal symptoms, for instance). Examples of systemic HRT include pills, injections, and patches, while local treatments include vaginal creams and rings.

Are You a Good Candidate for HRT?

Before beginning HRT, many women first try lifestyle modifications to manage their menopause symptoms. Wearing layered clothing, sleeping in cotton sheets, and avoiding spicy foods and alcohol could limit hot flashes, for instance. Some women also see improvements by taking supplements to support healthy hormone function. But if these approaches don’t give you adequate relief, it’s worth discussing HRT with your provider, especially when symptoms begin interfering with your routine.

What exactly does that mean? It can look different from one person to the next, but an example could be hot flashes that make it difficult to get through the day or keep you up at night. Likewise, decreased libido and painful intercourse are symptoms that should be addressed. And if you’re struggling with any other issues that could be attributed to menopause, from mood changes to weight gain, it’s possible that HRT could alleviate these issues, too.

If you’re ready to have a conversation about HRT, we’ll help assess your candidacy for the treatment. Talking to a caring specialist is particularly important, as, like most medications, HRT isn’t risk-free. Women tend to see the best results when starting HRT within ten years of menopause, and risks of the treatment are lowest among the younger women. Similar to birth control, ET and EPT can increase the risk of blood clots, though it’s rare in women aged 50 to 59. The risk of breast cancer is also increased with five or more years of EPT, but there was no increased risk with ET alone. Your provider can help you weigh these factors and assess your individual risk profile when determining if HRT is right for you.

Interested in Starting Hormone Replacement Therapy? Schedule an Appointment Today

Starting HRT can be a safe and effective way to manage your menopause symptoms, but it’s a decision that calls for guidance from a medical expert. If you’d like to talk through your options with our care team, call (404) 352-2850 or schedule an appointment online.