When it comes to menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, there are several hormone delivery methods that can bring relief to women. These include pills, patches, creams, implants, rings and tablets.
We have listed some of the basic pros and cons of these methods.
Hormone Replacement Therapy(HRT) Pills
The Deal: HRT involves taking the hormones estrogen and progesterone. (Women without a uterus only take estrogen.)
The Pros: According to WomensHealth.gov, HRT in this form:
- Treats vaginal dryness and discomfort
- Reduces hot flashes and night sweats, and related problems such as poor sleep and irritability
- Slows bone loss
- Possibly eases mood swings and mild depressive mood
The Cons: For some women, it may increase their chance of blood clots, heart attack, stroke, breast cancer and gall bladder disease.
The Deal: Hormone therapy is also available in a transdermal form such as a skin patch.
The Pros: A recent study suggests that the low-dose patch form of HRT may not have the possible risk of stroke that other forms can have, WomensHealth.gov said.
The Cons: The patch still delivers higher doses of estrogen into the bloodstream which could increase the chance of blood clots, heart attack, stroke, breast cancer and gall bladder disease.
The Deal: Prescription vaginal creams are applied in small amounts in the vagina two to three times a week. Creams act to reverse the thinning and dryness of vaginal tissues rather than just providing the temporary relief that lubricants and moisturizers do.
The Pros: Severe vaginal atrophy may respond more quickly to vaginal estrogen therapy than to hormone pills or patches that deliver estrogen throughout the body.
The Cons: At this time, hormone creams sound attractive and may turn out to be safe and effective. However, it's simply too early to know, MedicineNet.com cautioned.
Vaginal Rings and Tablets
The Deal: To relieve vaginal dryness, estrogen can be administered directly to the vagina using a tablet or ring. This treatment releases just a small amount of estrogen, which is absorbed by the vaginal tissues. It can help relieve vaginal dryness, discomfort with intercourse and some urinary symptoms.
The Pros: Helps keep vaginal and urethral tissue from thinning. Vaginal estrogen has fewer risks compared to systemic estrogen taken in higher doses.
The Cons: A small amount of estrogen does get absorbed into the body. This could be of possible concern to women with a history of breast cancer.
Implants / Pellets
The Deal: Testosterone implants or pellets - smaller than a grain of rice – are implanted into subcutaneous tissue, where they slowly and continuously release the hormone into the bloodstream. This release continues over a three to six month period.
The Pros: Early results from a study suggest implants ease menopausal symptoms without raising a woman’s risk of breast cancer, BreastCancer.org said.
The testosterone implant caused only mild side effects in some women, including an increase in facial hair, hair thinning and a mild increase in acne, according to BreastCancer.org.
Mayo Clinic advised before deciding on any form of treatment, that you talk with your doctor about the options and the risks and benefits involved with each. Annually review your options, as your needs and treatment options may change.
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"Study Suggests Testosterone May Help Ease Menopausal Symptoms Without Increasing Breast Cancer Risk." Breastcancer.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2014.
"Vaginal and Vulvar Comfort: Lubricants, Moisturizers, and Low-dose Vaginal Estrogen." Vaginal and Vulvar Comfort, Lubricants- Moisturizers, and Low-dose Vaginal Estrogen, Sexual Side Effects of Menopause. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2014.
Reviewed September 15, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith