Learn more about this treatment and the side effects related to hormone replacement therapy medications.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the use of estrogen with or without a progestin to replace low hormone levels in women. HRT is most commonly prescribed to women who are going through or after menopause, although there can be other conditions where HRT is prescribed. HRT can be issued in several forms, including tablets, patches and creams. Here are a few of the most common questions patients have concerning HRT:

What are the signs and symptoms of low hormone levels?

Females with low hormone levels can experience several signs and symptoms including hot flashes, sleep loss, depression, nervousness, tiredness, vaginal dryness and trouble staying focused. Low hormone levels can also cause conditions like osteoporosis.

Who should take hormone replacement therapy?

Although there are benefits to HRT, it is not beneficial or safe for everyone, especially those with a history of breast cancer, cancer in the lining of the uterus, cancer of the ovaries, heart disease, high blood pressure, blood clots and strokes. Only your physician can help you determine if HRT is the right choice for you. If you are considering HRT, you and your physician should discuss the benefits and risks involved.

What side effects are associated with hormone replacement therapy?

Individuals using HRT can experience side effects including bloating, breast swelling or tenderness, headaches, mood changes, nausea and vaginal bleeding. It is important to

contact your physician if you are experiencing any of these symptoms or any other unusual symptom. Side effects from HRT do not necessarily lead to discontinuation of therapy.

In some cases, changes in the dose or dosage form might be necessary. Patients should not discontinue HRT without talking with their physician.

What else can be done to treat the symptoms associated with low hormone levels?

Your physician and pharmacist can recommend treatments for symptoms associated with low hormone levels. Hot flashes and vaginal dryness are the more uncomfortable effects of low hormone levels. Hot flashes last from a few seconds to several minutes and can happen many times during the day and night. Layer your clothing so that you can easily remove layers to cool yourself during a hot flash. Cold drinks may also be helpful. For vaginal dryness, use only creams that are made for vaginal use. Do not use petroleum jelly. Your physician or pharmacist can help determine the best vaginal cream for you to use.

Low hormone levels may also increase your risk for heart disease and bone loss. Living a healthy lifestyle reduces that risk. Exercising regularly, eating healthy, not smoking and limiting alcohol and caffeine can help maintain a healthy weight, and help control blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Consult your physician before starting any exercise or weight loss program. They can also be an excellent resource to help you quit smoking and determine if any over-the-counter supplements would be beneficial.