Hormone therapy: Is it right for you? – Mayo Clinic

Posted: May 4, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Hormone therapy: Is it right for you?

Hormone therapy was once routinely used to treat menopausal symptoms and protect long-term health. Then large clinical trials showed health risks. What does this mean to you?

Hormone replacement therapy medications containing female hormones to replace the ones the body no longer makes after menopause used to be a standard treatment for women with hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. Hormone therapy (as it's now called) was also thought to have the long-term benefits of preventing heart disease and possibly dementia.

Use of hormone therapy changed abruptly when a large clinical trial found that the treatment actually posed more health risks than benefits for one type of hormone therapy, particularly when given to older postmenopausal women. As the concern about health hazards attributed to hormone therapy grew, doctors became less likely to prescribe it.

Hormone therapy is no longer recommended for disease prevention, such as heart disease or memory loss. However, further review of clinical trials and new evidence show that hormone therapy may be a good choice for certain women, depending on their risk factors.

The benefits of hormone therapy depend, in part, on whether you take systemic hormone therapy or low-dose vaginal preparations of estrogen.

Systemic hormone therapy. Systemic estrogen which comes in pill, skin patch, gel, cream or spray form remains the most effective treatment for relief of troublesome menopausal hot flashes and night sweats. Estrogen can also ease vaginal symptoms of menopause, such as dryness, itching, burning and discomfort with intercourse.

Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still approves estrogen for the prevention of the bone-thinning disease called osteoporosis, doctors usually recommend medications called bisphosphonates to treat osteoporosis.

Long-term systemic hormone therapy for the prevention of postmenopausal conditions is no longer routinely recommended. But some data suggest that estrogen can decrease the risk of heart disease when taken early in postmenopausal years.

A recent, randomized, controlled clinical trial the Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study (KEEPS) explored estrogen use and heart disease in younger postmenopausal women. The study found no significant association between hormone therapy and heart disease.

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Hormone therapy: Is it right for you? - Mayo Clinic

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