Estrogen Therapy: Overview, Uses, Types, Benefits, and Risks

Estrogen Therapy

One of the most studied forms of hormone replacement is estrogen therapy.

Doctors prescribe estrogen replacement to women for numerous reasons, including:

  • Relief of specific menopausal symptoms
  • Regulation of menstrual cycles
  • Following hysterectomy

Although it was once prescribed for osteoporosis, dementia, and heart disease, doctors today use other treatments for these conditions.

Estrogen is a group of three hormones:

  • Estradiol – the predominant form of estrogen before menopause and in males, and what is synthesized from aromatase conversion of testosterone
  • Estrone – most predominant type of estrogen following menopause
  • Estriol – secreted by the placenta during pregnancy

During menopause, the female body undergoes many changes. Primary symptoms of menopause often have to do with the decrease in ovarian hormone production. Secondary symptoms are often similar to changes normally associated with aging. The decline of other hormones may be misinterpreted for menopausal symptoms.

For that reason, HT Medical Center recommends blood testing before beginning any form of hormone therapy. A different treatment option may be the better choice.

To understand how estrogen therapy works, we look at what happens when hormone production slows down. As the ovaries cease to operate, the hormones they produce decline to extremely low levels. Just because a woman no longer produces eggs does not mean her body no longer needs these hormones. Estrogen therapy works to restore a healthy supply of estrogen to the body. The same can be said about any other form of hormone replacement therapy.

Who Can Use Estrogen Therapy and Why Is It Beneficial

While women are the primary targets for estrogen therapy, there are also times when men can benefit from this treatment. Again, blood analysis to measure estrogen and other hormone levels will provide the answer as to who is a candidate for treatment.

What is estrogen therapy used for in men?

Male estrogen therapy helps to strengthen bones and improve brain functions. Estrogen also maintains healthy cholesterol levels. That is why both males and females need to ensure proper estrogen levels.

Why is estrogen therapy given to women with progesterone?

Progesterone is necessary to protect the uterus from cancer when estrogen levels are increased. It is thought that women who no longer have a uterus do not need progesterone. Many hormone doctors will argue this point as increasing estrogen, and not progesterone causes estrogen to go unopposed in the bloodstream. A condition called estrogen dominance could occur, leading to weight gain and other health problems.

The decision of when to start estrogen therapy is one to make with a hormone specialist. Undesirable symptoms are the leading reason to consider estrogen replacement therapy.

Types of Estrogen Therapy for Women

Estrogen therapy for women comes in many different forms. Your symptoms will be the primary factor in the type of estrogen you will use. Similar side effects are possible with all forms of estrogen replacement.

Here are the pros and cons of the many types of estrogen therapy:

  • Oral Estrogen – pills including Premarin, Estrace, and Estratab

Pros: improve menopausal symptoms, lower osteoporosis risk, extensive studies
Cons: increases certain risk factors including blood clots, and stroke, may cause liver problems

  • Estrogen Gels, Creams, and Sprays – products include Estrasorb (cream), Divigell and Estroge (gel), and Evamist (spray)

Pros: applied to the skin for absorption into the bloodstream, no liver interaction
Cons: not as studied as oral estrogen, treatment could rub or wash off before full absorption

  • Estrogen Patches – adhesive patches that stick to the skin including Climara, Estraderm, and Alora and others

Pros: no liver interaction, convenient
Cons: should not be exposed to direct sunlight, high heat, saunas, or tanning beds

  • Vaginal Estrogen – Estrace and Premarin (creams), Estring and Femring (vaginal rings), Vagifem (tablets)

Pros: minimize estrogen exposure by treating only specific vaginal symptoms
Cons: does not help with other symptoms, may increase endometrial cancer in women with a uterus

Benefits of Estrogen Therapy

There are many benefits of natural estrogen replacement therapy. For a comprehensive look at the benefits of estrogen therapy, check out this article.

The most commonly sought benefits of estrogen therapy include:

  • Decrease in hot flashes
  • Improved memory
  • Balanced moods
  • Reduction of night sweats
  • Bone-strengthening
  • Increased vaginal lubrication
  • Better sleep
  • Enhanced libido and sexual pleasure

Side Effects and Risks of Estrogen Therapy

Is estrogen therapy safe for everyone?

No, some women should not use estrogen, including those with the following risks factors:

  • Blood clots
  • Breast cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Liver disease
  • Uterine cancer
  • Smokers

Any woman should consider the pros and cons of estrogen therapy before beginning treatment. A comprehensive listing of estrogen side effects can be found via this link.

Some of the most common side effects of estrogen include:

  • Breast tenderness or soreness
  • Fluid retention
  • Headaches
  • Vaginal spotting
  • Mood changes

HT Medical Center recommends following all estrogen replacement therapy guidelines and instructions. Contact a hormone specialist for thorough blood analysis before determining what type of hormone therapy is right for you. Some women who cannot use estrogen may benefit from progesterone or testosterone replacement therapy. Natural methods of improving hormone levels may be available to you, as well.

To learn more, please contact our hormone clinic for a complimentary consultation.