Treating menopause symptoms

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:50 pm
Many symptoms associated with menopause are due to naturally declining levels of estrogen; therefore, the most common treatment is hormone replacement therapy, or H-R-T. In H-R-T, the doctor prescribes small amounts of estrogen and another hormone called progesterone (pro-JESS-ter-oan), also known as progestin (pro-JESS-tin). The substances may be taken orally, delivered through a patch, in a topical gel, or by other means. These hormones won't maintain the menstrual cycle, but can counteract effects like osteoporosis, vaginal thinning and dryness, and hot flashes. This therapy can also lower 'bad' or L-D-L cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease. Adding progesterone helps balance the estrogen, so it doesn't cause uterine cancer. Nevertheless, H-R-T is not appropriate for everyone, and may have its drawbacks. Some studies show an increased risk of blood clots and breast cancer, though the latter is usually after five to ten years of therapy. Discuss the issue with your doctor. For some symptoms, non-estrogen treatments may be available to fight bone loss. Lifestyle changes like regular exercise, a healthy diet, and limiting caffeine and alcohol may also help. Finally, new drugs called 'SERMS' are available. Short for specific estrogen receptor modulators, these medications are designed to simulate the good effects of estrogen, without the bad. For more information on treating menopause, consult a health care provider.

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