Friday, January 1, 2010

The Benefits of Sex Hormone Therapy?

Menopause is an agonizing time for most women. With declining levels of the sex hormones, a great majority of women develop symptoms like vaginal dryness, dry skin, hot flashes, depression, itchiness, difficulty sleeping and even weight gain. While there is no satisfactory therapy, most physicians do recommend a short course of estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is very effective for the treatment of menopausal symptoms and is available in many formulations. It can be taken orally, applied as a patch on the skin, used as a cream format, injected or even be placed directly into the vagina as a suppository. Within a short time, most women find relief from the above symptoms. When used on a regular basis, estrogen can also ease symptoms of vaginal dryness during intercourse.

However, long term treatment with sex hormones is not recommended. The reason is that there is a lot of evidence that use of sex hormones for more than 3-5 years can lead to development of breast or uterine cancers. However, when these hormones are taken for short term they do have certain benefits like:

Osteoporosis. There are many studies that have shown that hormonal therapy can help prevent bone loss and improve bone density. The benefits on bone can be seen with fewer fractures and decreased pain within one to two years.

There is some evidence that hormone therapy may also help prevent colorectal cancer. While this is not a universal observation anecdotal reports show that some women who have been on these hormones have a much lower incidence of such cancers.

Regular consumption of female sex hormones is known to decrease fats and cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease. The studies do show that sex hormones when taken early during menopause can help decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke compared to women who do not take these hormones.

In menopause, estrogen is should not be prescribed alone. This is because estrogen alone can increase the risk of uterine cancer. Thus most formulations also contain a low dose of progesterone or there is a separate cream of progesterone to take at the same time..

Whether to take a bioidentical hormone or the conventional synthetic hormones is a personal choice. However, bioidentical hormones are much safer because they are derived from natural plant sources and then synthesized in a laboratory. Synthetic hormones have been studied in 2002 by the Womens Health Initiative and shown to cause all sorts of serious problems for women such as stroke and breast cancer.

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