By: Diana Barnes-Brown for Uterus1
Until early this decade, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was touted as the holy grail of treatments for menopausal women. In addition to alleviating standard symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness and sexual difficulties, certain research suggested that HRT offered added benefits when it came to fighting postmenopausal illnesses and conditions such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
| Quick Facts on Menopause|
Common signs and symptoms of menopause include:
Hot and cold flashes
Physical changes (such as changes in body shape, or weight gain or loss)
Changes in sexual appetite
Vaginal dryness or itching
Discomfort during sex
Hear Both Sides:
To read more about the recent report published in the Journals of Women’s Health, click here
To read more about the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative study that was ended early click here
A few years ago, however, new information was released that suggested that HRT increased health risks rather than decreasing them. Slowly the list of negative outcomes thought to be connected to HRT increased; in tandem with these events, doctors wrote fewer prescriptions and patients increasingly turned to alternative methods for dealing with the symptoms of menopause.
A recent report in the New York Times outlined both sides of the debate. On one side were the 2002 findings of the Women’s Health Initiative of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which concluded that HRT might result in increased risk of heart disease, breast cancer, stroke, blood clots and dementia, as well as making cancerous tumors harder to detect in breast cancer patients. Researchers even opted to end the study three years before its planned end-date because they feared the risk to participants.
On the other side of the debate was a recent report published in the Journal of Women’s Health by the Nurses Health Study, an ongoing initiative also managed by the NIH. By contrast, this report suggested that when younger women use HRT it may help to decrease heart disease risk. Currently, the FDA requires risk warnings that mention “serious side effects,” and recommends that women take the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time.
At the same time, menopausal women long for relief from the sometimes disruptive symptoms of “the change,” and crave the information they need to make informed decisions about dealing with their health during and after menopause.
Currently, combined research results indicate that for women under 60, HRT may be beneficial. Also, for those in higher risk groups with moderate to severe hot flashes or other serious menopausal symptoms, the benefits may outweigh the risks.
For women who are considering starting, changing or terminating HRT, the first step is to talk to a doctor or healthcare provider who knows the most recent research on both sides of the issue. The next step is to work with caregivers to establish a strategy for managing symptoms while not significantly increasing risks.
Amid the conflicting research, the conclusion seems to be mixed: some people find that hormone replacement therapy works for them, while others opt for natural remedies or other alternatives. The best way to choose is to explore all the options available with an open mind – and a good medical caregiver.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also be interested in the following:
Menopause Management: An Alternative Medicine Update
Perimenopause: A Critical Time for Health
Alternatives to Hormone Replacement Therapy for Menopause Education Center