Hormone therapy is a medical treatment that can help relieve the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause. Hormone therapy also is called “hormone replacement therapy” or “menopausal hormone therapy.”
There are two types of hormone therapy, depending on whether you take one hormone or two:
- Estrogen only. Estrogen is the primary hormone used in hormone therapy. Sometimes it is called simply “estrogen therapy.”
- Estrogen plus progestin. If you have never had a hysterectomy and still have a uterus, you also will need a hormone called progestin. Taking progestin helps reduce the risk of uterine cancer that can occur when estrogen is used alone. There is some evidence that adding progestin may also improve hot flashes. Estrogen plus progestin sometimes is called “combined hormone therapy.”
How does hormone therapy work? As you approach menopause, your ovaries get smaller and gradually stop making estrogen. Medication that provides estrogen can relieve symptoms of menopause in two ways:
Systemic estrogen therapy. Estrogen is released into the bloodstream and travels to the organs and tissues where it is needed. Examples include pills, skin patches, gels, and sprays.
Local estrogen therapy. Women who only have vaginal dryness may take local estrogen therapy in the form of a vaginal ring, tablet, or cream. These forms release small doses of estrogen directly into the vaginal tissue.
When progestin is added, it can come in different forms, including pills you take by mouth, or tablets and gels you place in the vagina. The intrauterine device (IUD), which releases progestin, also may be an option. Progestin also can be combined with estrogen in the same pill or patch.
Our providers are available to discuss about what form may work best for you. You can decide based on your symptoms, medical history, and lifestyle.
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