What is hormone replacement therapy? As an adult, you have hormones or chemical messengers that occur naturally in your body. These chemical messengers control important processes in the body, including reproduction, growth and development, metabolism, mood, and sexual function. However, the levels of these chemicals in your body may be too low due to certain factors. As a result, the body processes controlled by these chemical messengers become impaired. To counter this impairment, you need to receive hormones to supplement or substitute the naturally occurring ones. This can be done through a treatment known as hormone replacement therapy, which is medically abbreviated as HRT.
Forms of Hormone Replacement Therapy
The forms of hormone replacement therapy include menopausal hormone therapy, androgen replacement therapy, and transgender hormone therapy.
- Menopausal hormone replacement therapy.
The levels of estrogen and progesterone drop during menopause. As a result, you may experience vaginal dryness, hot flushes, mood swings, and other menopausal symptoms. To relieve these symptoms, you need menopausal hormone replacement therapy. Depending on your doctor’s advice, the therapy can be in the form of patches, tablets, gels, or creams.
This therapy can be done in three forms: estrogen only, cyclical combines, or continuous combined. Estrogen only is ideal if you do not have the uterus. In cyclical combined therapy, you receive both estrogen and progesterone. You will begin to experience monthly periods if you receive this form of therapy. In continuous combined therapy, you receive both estrogen and progesterone, but you will not experience the monthly periods.
- Androgen Replacement Therapy
Also referred to as testosterone replacement therapy, this therapy involves the replacement of androgens, usually testosterone. Testosterone is the primary male reproductive hormone, and it is mainly produced by your testicles. The hormone is responsible for various functions, including sperm production, sex drive, bone density, formation of the red blood cells, and muscle mass, in your body.
You have high levels of testosterone in your adolescence. The levels are also high during early adulthood. However, your testosterone levels begin to drop gradually after age 30 due to hypogonadism or aging. As a result, you may experience changes in sleep habits, sexual function, and concentration. You may also develop a reduced muscle mass, erectile dysfunction, and other symptoms related to low levels of testosterone.
To prevent the signs and symptoms of low levels of testosterone, you need androgen replacement therapy. This therapy an also delay the effects of aging. If you lose your testicular function as a result of a disease, this therapy can be helpful.
- Transgender Hormone Therapy
Also known as cross-sex hormone therapy, this treatment involves administration of hormone replacement medications to trans-gender individuals. It is done to introduce the characteristics associated with your sex for purposes of gender identity. There are two forms of trans-gender hormone therapy: feminizing hormone therapy and masculinizing hormone therapy. Feminizing hormone therapy involves the introduction of anti-androgens and estrogens, and it is ideal for female trans-gender people. Masculinizing hormone therapy involves the introduction of androgens, and it is suitable for trans-masculine or trans-gender males.
Pros and Cons of Hormone Replacement Therapy
Along with relieving the symptoms of menopause, hormone replacement therapy reduces the chances of osteoporosis, a condition that weakens your bones and causes them to become brittle. The condition commonly affects the bones in your wrist, spine, and hip. If you have osteoporosis, your bones can fracture even at the slightest force, including coughing and bending.
Hormone replacement therapy also enhances confidence among transgender people by ensuring that their characteristics correspond with birth sex.
Although hormone replacement therapy is beneficial, it increases the chances of fatal conditions, such as uterine cancer, breast cancer, heart attack, and stroke. The chances of these conditions are even higher if the therapy involves a combination of estrogen and progesterone.
In a nutshell, it is important to understand what hormone replacement therapy entails before deciding to receive the treatment. Be sure to consult your doctor about any side effects of the treatment. Also, ask your doctor if there are other more healthy alternatives to hormone replacement therapy. Alternatives to this treatment may include the use of vaginal moisturizers and lubricants to relieve vaginal dryness. Using antidepressants for healthy sleep and mood changes under your doctor’s prescription can also be a good alternative.