Hormone replacement therapy is a medical intervention designed to increase a woman's hormone levels. As women get closer to menopause (the average age at onset is 52), their naturally occurring hormone levels - particularly estrogen and progesterone decrease considerably. This deficiency can bring on uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, painful intercourse due to vaginal dryness, mood swings and problems sleeping. The prospect of osteoporosis - a loss of bone density - also increases. Menopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT) works to increase those hormone levels, which can curtail the negative side effects and help to prevent osteoporosis and reduce cardiovascular risks.
Estrogen/progesterone therapy is appropriate for women who have reached menopause naturally. These therapies work best for women who are having severe menopausal symptoms or those who are genetically predisposed to osteoporosis. Women who have a personal history of breast cancer, heart or liver disease, and blood clots are not good candidates for HRT. Both treatments are available in a variety of forms: pills, patches, and gels. For those with predominantly vaginal symptoms, topical creams and intravaginal rings may be prescribed.