Menopause is a naturally occurring part of the aging process. The ovaries stop releasing eggs and the production of estrogen goes into a rapid decline. The lack of estrogen has a domino effect upon all of the systems of the body, causing physical changes to occur. Most women have little if any trouble getting through this stage of life. However; some women experience uncomfortable and occasionally debilitating symptoms from fluctuations in hormones in the body and their impacts. One of the most commonly prescribed treatment options for these issues is estrogen replacement therapy (ERT).
What is Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT)?
ERT is one of the most effective treatment methods used for replacing low levels of estrogen. Synthetically engineered estrogen replacement is administered to attempt to restore hormonal balance within the body. The differentiation between ERT and HRT is that ERT focuses upon the replenishment of estrogen alone versus the combination of additional hormone replacements.
How ERT Works?
ERT is administered through a few different mediums. It can be given through a transdermal patch, a vaginal ring, skin cream or gel. These methods are preferred over pill form which must be processed through the liver. This takes additional time and puts stress on this vital organ. The estrogen replacement is absorbed into the bloodstream and begins to function as naturally produced estrogen in the body. This helps to restore hormonal balance in the systems of the body, alleviating most of the symptoms that women can experience, bringing relief from the discomfort.
Why is ERT Used?
The most common reason that ERT is used is to alleviate the symptoms of menopause. These can include hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, depression, insomnia, vaginal atrophy and accompanying sexual dysfunction and urinary tract issues that are a result of low estrogen. It is also used for women who undergo premature menopause due to surgical procedures, disease or abnormally early menopause as early menopause can signal additional health risks in the long term. Low dose vaginal estrogen in the form of a vaginal ring is used primarily for the treatment of urinary tract issues and for the symptoms of vaginal atrophy. It is also used to treat postmenopausal women who no longer have a uterus. It is believed to be useful in preventing colon cancer and osteoporosis.
What Women Need to Know about Estrogen Replacement Therapy?
ERT has been shown to be one of the most effective treatment methods available for most women. There are certain risks and side effects associated with this remedy, and not all women are eligible candidates. While it does reverse the effects of low estrogen, other complications may arise from its use. Exposure to direct sunlight has an effect on how much estrogen is released from an ERT patch, so limited exposure to heat sources including sun, heating pads, tanning beds, hot tubs and so forth is recommended while you are wearing the patch.
Is ERT Right for You?
Your health care provider may be able to better help you determine if ERT is right for you. This treatment method is not recommended for women who use tobacco products, are pregnant, experience unexplained vaginal bleeding, or have health histories that include certain types of cancer, cardiovascular issues, stroke, or have had blood clots.
What are the Side Effects?
Commonly reported side effects of ERT include nausea, headaches, fluid retention and weight gain, unusual pigmentation of the skin, breast tenderness, vaginal discharge and an increase in the incidence and size of fibroids.
What are the Risks of ERT?
The user of estrogen replacement therapy may pose increased risk of health issues in a low number of women. How much is dependent upon health history, age and what age it is started. The lists of risks include stroke, gallstones, dementia, urinary incontinence, ovarian cancer and blood clots.
Estrogen replacement therapy is an effective treatment method for alleviating the symptoms of menopause, and additionally for postmenopausal issues. It is believed to lower the risks of certain health issues while in some women, increasing the risks for certain others. In judging whether ERT is the right choice for you, it is wise to consult with your health care provider as he or she will assess your past and current health profile for advisement.