HRT is a safe and effective treatment option for most healthy women with symptoms, who are going through the menopause at the average age in the UK (about 51 years). The risks and benefits of HRT will vary according to your age and any other health problems you may have. Your doctor will be able to discuss any potential risks of HRT with you in detail.
HRT helps to improve menopausal symptoms usually improve and this can make a big difference to quality of life in some women:
- HRT works to stop hot flushes (also known as 'hot flashes') and night sweats.
- HRT will reverse many of the changes around the vagina and vulva. This means that HRT can:
- Improve symptoms of vaginal dryness.
- Improve discomfort during sexual intercourse as a result of this vaginal dryness.
- Help to reduce recurrent urine infections.
- Improve any increased frequency of passing urine.
- There is some evidence that HRT itself improves your mood and your sleep.
- HRT may also help to improve joint aches and pains and it may improve muscle strength.
- HRT improves sexual function and libido in many women.
- Many women notice that the texture of their hair and skin improves when taking HRT.
- Reduced risk of 'thinning' of the bones (osteoporosis) thus their risk of having fractures due to osteoporosis is also reduced.
There are also some risks/ side effects associated with having HRT which someone may or may not experience. However it is important to be aware of these risks.
- Blood clot in the veins called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). These clots can travel sometimes to the lung causing pulmonary embolism (PE). Taking HRT you have a increased risk of developing clot and more likely to develop clot if you have other risk factors such as being obese, smoker or having had a clot in the past.
(Note: increased risk of clots is not present for women who use patches or gel at standard doses rather than HRT tablets. You should see a doctor urgently if you develop a red, swollen or painful leg, or have shortness of breath and/or sharp pains in your chest.)
- Increased risk of breast cancer however, this depends on the type of HRT you take and for how you take it for.
- Increased risk of uterine cancer due to oestrogen part of HRT. This risk reduces completely when taking combined HRT containing oestrogen and progesterone.
If you notice any abnormal vaginal bleeding which develops after starting HRT e.g. heavy bleeding, irregular bleeding or bleeding after sex, see your GP.
- Increased risk of heart disease or stroke in women who start or are on HRT from 60 years and over, this is why the advice is to stop HRT at this age.
For more information regarding HRT please see the Patient.Info website