Hormone replacement therapy is no longer a topic that’s surrounded in mystery. In fact, exploring this medical option has become a normal part in treating various conditions, like Hashimoto’s disease, and even for preventing the onset of serious conditions like osteoporosis. So we’ll explore distinct types of hormones and their purposes and benefits.
Understanding Hormone Therapy
Hormone therapy comes in different forms as you will see with each type that’s described in this blog. When you’re dealing with thyroid issues, chronic illness, or simply stress or aging, you can lose your hormonal balance. This situation affects mental function, physical wellbeing, and unfortunately in some cases, your relationships. Talking with your healthcare provider is important if you’re considering hormone replacement therapy so that your treatment can be tailored to your particular needs.
Types of Hormone Therapy
As part of the normal aging process, testosterone levels decrease over time, but a drop in testosterone production can also result from a condition called hypogonadism. In this case, your doctor may prescribe testosterone therapy which comes in the form of injections, gels, pallets, or patches. The injections are administered weekly or every 2 weeks for a short-acting treatment and monthly for a long-acting treatment. Patches and gels or creams provide other means of receiving this medication where patches can be changed every 24 hours, or a gel, with a dosage between 40 to 100 mg, can be applied once a day. Pallets offer a more extensive method of hormone replacement in which the pallet is implanted into the upper hip or buttock area every 3 to 6 months.
While Erectile Dysfunction is not a part of the aging process, there are many factors that contribute to its onset from stress to serious illnesses like Parkinson’s disease. A hormone imbalance can also bring about ED. Similar to the treatment for low testosterone, your healthcare provider can prescribe hormone treatment in the form of topical medication, injections, patches, or pellets, which are implanted into the body. Any of these forms of hormone therapy provide a slow, yet consistent release of the hormone that you need to achieve and/or maintain an erection.
Whether you have started experiencing menopause or have undergone a hysterectomy, low estrogen can greatly impact both the mind and body. From hot flashes to mood swings to a loss in bone density, a severe drop in estrogen production, along with hormone replacement therapy, requires consistent monitoring by a practitioner. Estrogen can be administered in the form of systemic hormone therapy such as pills or topical medications (rings, gels, and sprays). Or the doctor can prescribe a low-dose vaginal supplement. If you haven’t had a hysterectomy, your practitioner may also prescribe progesterone to balance out the estrogen’s effect of stimulating the growth of the uterine lining, which leads to uterine cancer if not properly regulated. For this reason and because of other side effects related to blood clotting and an increased risk of developing breast cancer, estrogen is prescribed for a limited duration and in the lowest dose possible.
Thyroid Hormone Therapy
Hormone therapy that targets the thyroid is used for one of two reasons. One relates to treating a patient with an underactive thyroid (sometimes due to Hashimoto’s disease) or one who has had this organ removed due to the thyroid cancer. Either way, this type of hormone replacement therapy is meant to replicate the results of having an active thyroid. The medication, levothyroxine, can be taken in pill or liquid form or topically. Ideally, you would see a decrease in your symptoms, especially if you keep in close communication with your practitioner. The main concern with thyroid replacement therapy involves the dosage level and frequency for safely achieving optimal results.
Progesterone is given in conjunction with estrogen if you’re going through menopause but haven’t had a hysterectomy. As mentioned, estrogen triggers the development of the uterine lining, and progesterone regulates its growth in order to prevent endometrial issues from occurring. Likewise, a healthcare provider might prescribe progesterone if your periods are irregular. In this case, the hormone brings about a more consistent monthly cycle. Following your provider’s instructions can directly impact the outcome since it’s strongly recommended that you take the pill at the same time each day. Plus, keep in mind that the doses alternate between taking the actual hormone for 10 to 12 days and then alternating for 16 to 18 days when you’re taking a placebo.
Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy
Each type of hormone therapy offers benefits for overall wellness. Testosterone therapy, for instance, alleviates fatigue, improves mood and libido, and helps with building muscle mass and bone density. Likewise for women, estrogen and/or progesterone therapy brings relief from menopausal symptoms, like night sweats, vaginal dryness, and fatigue, and irregular periods for those still in the child-bearing years. And thyroid hormone therapy brings about marked improvement in energy level for those suffering from hypothyroidism. It also brings about more stability with weight management and some relief from joint pain.
Q: What conditions can hormone therapy help with?
Depending on your age, gender, and overall health, hormone therapy can be used to treat menopause, E.D. or low testosterone, irregular menstrual cycles, hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s disease), and issues with your pituitary gland.
Q: Is hormone therapy suitable for everyone?
Hormone therapy is not for everyone, especially if you have a history of heart disease, stroke, cancer (particularly breast cancer), and some issues with mental health such as depression since hormones can have a profound effect on mood. Plus, you would need to consult with your practitioner about any possible allergies to the ingredients of these medications.
Q: How long should hormone therapy be taken?
When dealing with menopause, the average duration spans about 3 years, though this depends on the person and the severity of symptoms. In the case of men who undergo radiotherapy for prostate cancer, 3 months prior to starting cancer treatment and possibly for about 3 years after. However, for issues like E.D. and low testosterone level, then your healthcare provider may limit the treatment for no more than 3 years or until symptoms are relieved. On the opposite end of the spectrum, thyroid hormones will need to be taken as a long term treatment to maintain a healthy metabolism.
DR. IRINA RIABIKINA, NMD
Dr. Irina Riabikina is a highly experienced Russian Physician, a graduate of the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. With over 14 years of dedicated practice… Read More