Replacing the declining estrogen with hormone therapy may help relieve menopause symptoms in aging women.
Estrogen plays an important role in managing your reproductive system, but it also protects your bones and helps your skin heal from bruises and injury. Estrogen is a hormone that’s naturally produced by your body. It’s found in both men and women.
Sometimes, your body doesn’t make enough estrogen. This can happen for various reasons. For example, your estrogen production slows down as you get older. Some conditions can also affect your estrogen levels.
If your estrogen levels are low, a doctor may prescribe hormone therapy to help replace your estrogen levels and ease symptoms.
Benefits of Estrogen
1. Relieves menopause symptoms
Your natural estrogen production changes over time. As you begin puberty, you will create more estrogen. You’ll continue to have higher levels through your childbearing years. As menopause approaches, your estrogen levels will begin falling.
As estrogen levels fall, you will start having symptoms of menopause. Most commonly, these symptoms include:
- hot flashes
- vaginal dryness
- difficulty sleeping
- excessive sweating
For menopause, many doctors will prescribe an estrogen-containing medication. Replacing the declining estrogen with hormone therapy may help ease menopause symptoms.
2. Improves vaginal issues
Estrogen can help maintain vaginal health. When estrogen levels decline, you may experience changes to the tissue, lining, and pH balance of your vagina. That can cause several vaginal health issues, including:
- vaginal dryness;
- vulvar atrophy, a condition that causes dryness, soreness, and urinary incontinence;
- atrophic vaginitis, or inflammation of vaginal tissues that is frequently caused by dryness and irritation.
Estrogen may be able to help treat these conditions.
3. Helps ovary issues
The ovaries are responsible for producing estrogen. If they fail to produce the hormone or if they are affected by any other condition, hormone therapy may be necessary.
These issues may require supplemental estrogen:
- female hypogonadism, or decreased function of the ovaries;
- failure of both ovaries;
- removal of both ovaries, or an oophorectomy.
If you’ve had your ovaries removed, hormone therapy may be used to help ease symptoms of premature menopause. Sometimes, both the uterus and ovaries are removed. This is called a total hysterectomy.
4. Protects your bones
Estrogen may help decrease bone loss after menopause. A doctor may recommend using estrogen to treat bone loss or osteoporosis.
How to get started on HRT
Speak to a GP if you’re interested in starting HRT.
You can usually begin HRT as soon as you start experiencing menopausal symptoms and will not usually need to have any tests first.
A GP can explain the different types of HRT available and help you choose one that’s suitable for you.
You’ll usually start with a low dose, which may be increased at a later stage. It may take a few weeks to feel the effects of treatment and there may be some side effects at first.
A GP will usually recommend trying treatment for 3 months to see if it helps. If it does not, they may suggest changing your dose or changing the type of HRT you’re taking.
Who can take HRT
Most women can have HRT if they’re having symptoms associated with menopause.
But HRT may not be suitable if you:
- have a history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or womb cancer;
- have a history of blood clots;
- have untreated high blood pressure – your blood pressure will need to be controlled before you can start HRT;
- have liver disease;
- are pregnant – it’s still possible to get pregnant while taking HRT, so you should use contraception until 2 years after your last period if you’re under 50, or for 1 year after the age of 50.
In these circumstances, alternatives to HRT may be recommended instead.
Types of HRT
There are many different types of HRT and finding the right 1 for you can be difficult.
There are differences:
- HRT hormones – most women take a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestogen, although women who do not have a womb can take estrogen on their own
ways of taking HRT – including tablets, skin patches, gels, vaginal creams, pessaries, or rings
- HRT treatment plans – HRT medicine may be taken without stopping, or used in cycles where you take estrogen without stopping but only take progestogen every few weeks
A GP can give you the advice to help you choose which type is best for you. You may need to try more than 1 type before you find 1 that works best.
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