Aging gracefully - hormone replacement therapy

As a woman, aging gracefully is no easy feat. It can however be achieved when you have the correct medical advice and guidance.

Mopani consulted Dr Allison Blair from the Elan Healthstyle centre on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Dr Blair specialises in women’s health and wellness.

What is HRT and what is it for?

“HRT is most commonly prescribed when a woman first experiences the symptoms of perimenopause. These symptoms include erratic periods, moodiness, anxiety, insomnia, weight gain, bloating, hot flashes, low libido and vaginal dryness”, said Dr Blair.

“There is a misconception that the age at which a woman requires HRT is usually after age 50, we see women enter perimenopause in their 30’s as well”, she continued.

“The symptoms of perimenopause are a result of diminishing and fluctuating hormone levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. By supplementing the decreasing hormones with an outside source like HRT, the symptoms can be improved, stabilised and relieved.”

“The goal is to firstly use lifestyle measures to weather the storm of perimenopause but when these measures fail, a little extra help is advised if the patient does not have any contraindications to the therapy”, she explained.

Are there any other benefits to using it?

“Many women use HRT and experience added benefits as a result. One of the benefits is maintaining one’s bone density. The absence of oestrogen as one ages can result in bone loss as with the aging process which may progress to osteoporosis if not addressed”, Dr Blair explained.

Are there different forms of HRT?

“There are two forms of HRT. The more well-known form of HRT is that which is prescribed by most medical doctors and we refer to that as conventional hormone replacement therapy. These hormones are derived from animal sources and are synthetic. The other form is bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) which are hormones derived from plant origin. At Elan Healthstyle, our doctors prefer the use of the bioidentical hormones”, Dr Blair explained.

Is it at all dangerous?

“HRT is a medicine and as with medical treatment, there are side effects and contraindications. It is always advisable to seek advice from a doctor well experienced in this field before embarking on the HRT or BHRT route.”

“Some types of hormones and modes of administration carry different side effect profiles. Modes of administration refer to how you take the hormones, albeit orally or trans-dermally. These two factors are more readily indicated in some women that in others.”

There is quite a lot of negativity surrounding conventional HRT. This is due to the Women’s Health Initiative trial of 2001 wherein the clinical trial was halted prematurely. The reason for this termination is due to side effects such as blood clots and an increase in certain cancers among participants.

What is of utmost importance is that hormones have changed in the last 20 years and the routes of administration have changed in order to negate these side effects. We always act in the best interest of the patient and weigh up risks and benefits before advising anything.

“This is a personalised treatment which should be tailored to each patient’s unique symptoms and health profile. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach at all. It is an ongoing monitoring process between you and doctor”, Dr Blair concluded.

A note from our Responsible pharmacist, Corné Cilliers

  • There are different dosage forms available to suit each individual’s preference such as oral tablets, trans-dermal patches, cream and gel
  • HRT should be started with a low dose and then increased if the symptoms such as hot flushes are not completely resolved
  • Therapy should be reviewed regularly until symptoms have stabilised. Annual follow-ups thereafter to be continued as long as the symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweat last. In women over 70 years HRT should be discontinued
  • All women should have a breast examination annually

Mopani Pharmacy has a variety of natural remedies available, that may support your HRT treatment. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for a recommendation and advice on any possible contraindications.

You can book a consultation with Dr Blair on 0135907345. Her consultation rooms are located at 22 Murray Street, Nelspruit.

Read more: Generic vs. originator medicines

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