At some point in every woman’s life, her body stops releasing eggs and halts the uterus from preparing for pregnancy. This is a natural process known as menopause. Dr. Gary Willen of Tahoe Women’s Care in Carson City, Nev., knows how tough this loss-of-hormone process can be, and he’s ready to talk about solutions.
Your body’s drop in hormone production can cause a wide range of symptoms that include headaches, sleeplessness, vaginal drying, and, of course, hot flashes. These chemical changes can also affect your brain, leading to erratic emotions, depression, anxiety, and even memory problems.
Some of the most important changes may lie unseen, however. The loss of estrogen may affect your bone strength and your blood pressure, leading to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a way to replace the chemicals that your body has stopped producing. But it’s not right for everyone.
Dr. Willen has many ways to help you get through this process. HRT involves replacing some of the estrogen that your body has stopped making.
In many cases, absorbing estrogen through your skin can get the job done. If that’s all you need, you may benefit from an estrogen cream, ring, or patch. These slow-release delivery systems give you a consistent baseline while your own levels fluctuate.
Other women benefit from taking hormone orally. If you still have your uterus, just taking estrogen alone isn’t enough. Estrogen encourages your body to grow the endometrial lining of the uterus.
Without progesterone, the lining simply builds up and can cause other health issues. So Dr. Willen uses a combination of estrogen and progesterone. .
Women who have gone through menopause at a younger age, perhaps before or in their mid-40s, can really benefit from HRT. The treatment protects their bones and cardiovascular system for what may very well be half of their life.
In a similar way, women who have had a sudden change in their reproductive health, such as ovarian surgery may benefit from estrogen supplements.
Women who are experiencing severe menopause symptoms may benefit from this, a slower reduction of hormones through HRT. In those cases, Dr. Willen may prescribe HRT for several years. Spreading out the changes over a longer period can reduce or even eliminate the worst symptoms.
Hormone replacement therapy carries a minimal increased risk of blood clots for all recipients, but some people are more likely to develop blood clots than others. Smokers and those with a family history of blood clots aren’t good candidates for HRT.
If you’ve ever had a form of reproductive cancer, you’re likewise not a good candidate for HRT. Breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers often respond to estrogen. So, any additional estrogen can encourage the growth of cancerous cells. Women who have a family history of these diseases may also be at higher risk of developing these cancers.
People who have a family history of high cholesterol or triglycerides, liver disease, or gallbladder issues may also be at an increased risk for long-term problems, such as high blood pressure and poor liver function.
Any time you’re considering treatment, it’s important to weigh both the risks and benefits. Thankfully, you don’t have to come to a conclusion alone. Contact Dr. Willen at Tahoe Women’s Care and discuss both your symptoms and your concerns. Together you can come up with a plan that helps you feel like yourself again.