Menopause and Hormone Replacement Therapy
What Is Menopause?
Menopause is the transition period in a woman's life when her ovaries stop producing eggs, her body produces less estrogen and progesterone and menstruation becomes less frequent, eventually stopping altogether. Menopause is a natural event that normally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55.
The symptoms of menopause are caused by changes in estrogen and progesterone levels. The ovaries make less of these hormones over time. The specific symptoms and how significant (mild, moderate, or severe) they are varies from woman to woman. A gradual decrease of estrogen generally allows your body to slowly adjust to the hormonal changes. Hot flashes and sweats are at their worst for the first one to two years. Menopause may last five or more years.
Therapies for Symptom Relief
The drop in hormone levels can lead to disruptive physical changes. You should talk to your doctor if you have the following:
- Heavy periods
- Long or irregular periods
- Severe hot flashes or night sweats
There are solutions to help decrease the symptoms associated with these changes, including over-the-counter herbal therapies, non-hormonal medications and hormone replacement therapy.
Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy
The most effective treatment available for severe hot flashes and night sweats is low-dose hormone replacement therapy.
Many women may fear the risks of hormone replacement therapy, but studies show these increased risks for breast cancer and blood clots are most often associated with former less common high-dose treatments combined with long-term use.
In fact, some benefits of hormone replacement therapy include:
- Decresed risk of hip fractures
- Decreased risk of colon cancer
- Decreased risk for heart disease