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May 2013

A quick guide to HRT

Hormone replacement therapy, more commonly known as HRT, is one of the options women may consider in later life - but what does it actually involve? Simply put, HRT means taking hormone supplements to replace the ones the body no longer produces during menopause, helping to restore the balance and allow the body to function normally.

Usually, HRT concentrates on two crucial hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is the hormone that helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and release eggs from the ovaries for conception. A lack of estrogen in the body can cause hot flushes, night sweats, loss of libido, incontinence and in some cases brittle bones (osteoporosis), due to the hormone's role in controlling bone density.

Meanwhile, progesterone, which is produced in the ovaries during the second half of the menstrual cycle, works by adjusting the balance of the body's hormones and protecting the lining of the womb. In HRT, progesterone is usually used in combination with estrogen, although you may not need both - for instance, if you have had a hysterectomy.

HRT can be taken in a variety of ways. Online suppliers like Lloydspharmacy offer the supplements in the form of tablets and patches, although you can also get them as a cream or a gel which is applied directly to the skin, or even as an implant. Your GP can advise you on what course of treatment they recommend, and the method may vary according to which symptoms you are experiencing.

The frequency of taking the supplements can also change depending on your situation. You may be advised to take HRT on a monthly or three-monthly basis - the former is usually recommended for women who are having regular periods. If you are post-menopausal, your doctor may advise continuous combined HRT, which means taking estrogen and progestogen (the progesterone supplement) every day.

HRT has been found to be very effective at controlling the symptoms of menopause, and can reduce certain cancer risks. However, other cancer risks can be heightened and long-term use of the supplements is usually not recommended. As with all medical matters, your GP is the best source of information about the route you should take.

Published in conjunction with lloydspharmacy

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