Hormone Therapy (HT): Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Hormone therapy (HT) is medicine to treat symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and sleep problems. It replaces the hormones that drop at menopause. Most women get relief from these symptoms within weeks of starting HT.

HT contains two female hormones, estrogen and progestin. HT may come in the form of a pill, patch, gel, spray, or vaginal ring. A vaginal cream or a vaginal ring that has a much lower dose of estrogen may be used to relieve vaginal dryness only.

HT has some risks. Most doctors recommend that women only take HT for as short a time as possible. This is to reduce the chances of heart disease, breast cancer, blood clots, and stroke that may be connected to HT. Be sure to have regular checkups with your doctor when taking HT.

Talk with your doctor about whether HT is right for you. If you decide that the benefits of HT outweigh the risks, ask your doctor to prescribe the lowest effective dose for as short a time as possible.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Why might you take HT?

  • HT reduces symptoms of menopause. These include hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep problems.
  • The estrogen in HT helps to prevent thinning bones. And it may lower the chance of colon cancer.
  • HT helps keep the lining of the vagina moist and thick. This can reduce irritation.
  • HT helps protect against dental problems, such as tooth loss and gum disease.

What are the risks of taking HT?

  • Some women who take HT may have vaginal bleeding, bloating, nausea, sore breasts, mood swings, and headaches. Talk to your doctor about changing the type of HT you take or lowering the dose. This may help to end these side effects.
  • Taking HT may slightly increase your risk for heart disease, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, blood clots, and stroke.
  • You should not take HT if you:
    • Could be pregnant.
    • Have a personal history of breast cancer, endometrial cancer, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, heart attack, or stroke.
    • Have vaginal bleeding from an unknown cause.
    • Have active liver disease.

What can you do to reduce the symptoms of menopause?

  • Eat healthy foods and get regular exercise. This also will help to maintain strong bones and a healthy heart.
  • Do not smoke. If you smoke, you can reduce hot flashes and long-term health risks by stopping. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Practice daily breathing exercises (meditation) to reduce hot flashes and mood swings.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. This can reduce symptoms of menopause and long-term health risks.
  • Keep your home and office cool.
  • Use a vaginal lubricant, such as Astroglide or K-Y Jelly.
  • Do pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises, which tighten and strengthen pelvic muscles. To do Kegel exercises:
    • Squeeze the same muscles you would use to stop your urine. Your belly and thighs should not move.
    • Hold the squeeze for 3 seconds, then relax for 3 seconds.
    • Start with 3 seconds. Then add 1 second each week until you are able to squeeze for 10 seconds.
    • Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times a session. Do three or more sessions a day.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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