Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy
Sex hormones play multiple roles in the body. They are responsible for developing sexual characteristics in both men and women, participating in different stages of life, such as puberty, pregnancy, and aging.
There are certainly differences in physical appearance between a man and a woman. These differences exist because estrogens and progesterone constitute the primary female sex hormones, which are relevant in regulating the menstrual cycle and fertility. In contrast, the primary male sex hormone is testosterone, which also plays an essential role in fertility because it is responsible for sperm production.
However, these are not the only functions of sex hormones. They are also an essential part of the:
- Bone health
- Hair health
- The texture, elasticity, and shine of the skin
- Good mood
- Sexual desire
- The disposition of muscle mass and body fat
- Mental and cardiovascular health
What happens to these hormones?
Both men and women go through a stage where these sex hormones are reduced. It is a natural life process known in women as menopause and in men as andropause.
Each person uniquely lives this stage. Sometimes these changes are invisible, without discomfort, with few signs or symptoms. But for other people, it is a challenging stage, with despair and symptoms so overwhelming that they interfere with their daily life.
Some of the symptoms that usually appear during menopause or andropause include:
- The cessation of the menstrual cycle
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Mood swings or emotional lability
- Decreased sexual desire
- Erectile dysfunction
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- It increases body fat
- Decrease in muscle mass
- It decreases mental capacity
- Articular and muscular pains
- Reduction of the size of the testicles
These symptoms can improve substantially with hormone replacement therapy, good eating habits, and physical activity.
What therapies exist to counteract these symptoms?
There are different types of hormone therapies. In women, hormone treatments are based on estrogen, progesterone, or a combination of both. Estrogen-based hormone replacement therapy is the one that is usually recommended, because most of the symptoms of menopause are associated with a decrease in estrogen levels in the blood.
On the other hand, in men, hormone therapy is based on testosterone because it is the primary male sex hormone responsible for the symptoms at this stage.
These treatments come in different presentations. They can be applied on the skin in the form of cream, lotion, spray, or gel. There are also intravaginal tablets and rings, tablets to be taken orally, subcutaneous implants, and transdermal patches to be placed on the skin.
The choice of the type of hormone therapy is based on the characteristics of each person, the symptoms they present, and the existence of risk factors that may worsen their health.
Therefore, before starting hormone replacement therapy, you must see a specialist to rule out any disease or problem that contraindicates the use of this therapy. It is also vital that once the treatment is started, it is kept under medical supervision.
What are the benefits of hormone replacement therapy?
There are several potential benefits of hormone therapy, with notable improvements in physical and emotional health and even sexual performance.
Benefits in women
Skin and hair
Estrogen-based hormone replacement therapy has a very positive effect on skin and hair. It helps reduce wrinkles, fragility, and dryness in the skin. It also prevents and reduces hair loss.
Studies show that in the first five years after the onset of menopause, about 30% of collagen, a substance that is essential for hair and skin, is reduced. Collagen represents almost 80% of the dry weight of the skin and prevents it from tearing, giving it firmness and smoothness.
Other studies have also demonstrated these benefits by increasing collagen production, elasticity, and skin thickness. It has been shown that estrogen therapy increases skin thickness between 7% and 30% in the medium and long term.
This therapy proved effective in preventing osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. It is essential in reducing the incidence of osteoporosis fractures associated with menopause.
It has been demonstrated that with low doses of treatment, it is possible to prevent bone loss and maintain bone integrity in women for longer. It is even considered first-line therapy in postmenopausal women at high risk of fracture.
Cardiovascular disease represents a significant cause of death worldwide. In postmenopausal women, it is the leading cause of mortality and morbidity. The most important benefits of hormone replacement therapy on the heart and blood vessels are obtained if this treatment is started during menopause and continued for an extended period.
To reduce the risk of blood clots in the cardiovascular system, transdermal, vaginal, and nasal therapies are preferred. It also helps to prevent diabetes, improve the blood lipid profile and reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, thus protecting the cardiovascular system.
There are other benefits that hormone replacement therapy appears to provide, such as reducing the risk of colon cancer. It was also shown that women who start hormone therapy during menopause had a lower risk of developing cognitive degeneration, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Benefits in men
Testosterone hormone therapy has been shown in several studies to reduce the risk of death from a heart attack. There is also evidence to support the slight protection provided by this therapy to men who were already at high risk of heart attack and cardiac arrest.
But, although it is a treatment that has a very positive effect on men’s heart health and overall health, it must be complemented with a good diet low in saturated fats and processed sugars and regular physical activity.
As testosterone levels drop with andropause, less lean muscle is produced, and muscle mass begins to decline in men. With testosterone therapy and regular physical activity, testosterone levels increase in the blood and muscle mass. This was proven in several studies.
Before andropause, adequate testosterone levels are responsible for producing muscle mass and burning body fat, giving men a more youthful and, in many cases, healthier appearance. But with aging and declining testosterone levels, men experience an increase in fat tissue and accumulate body fat.
When testosterone levels drop, the hormonal balance begins to shift, and estrogen levels rise, a hormone that promotes the production and accumulation of fat. This effect can be reversed if hormone therapy is maintained for a long time.
This problem is in real distress for many men after andropause. They lose the ability to achieve or maintain an erection, which prevents them from having pleasurable sexual intercourse.
The combination of the use of hormone therapy with testosterone and drugs such as sildenafil (Viagra) increases the effect of this type of drug when the main problem is low testosterone levels in the blood. However, the latter drug should also be indicated by your specialist physician.
Testosterone is responsible for maintaining sexual desire and drive in both men and women. Men with low testosterone levels may even lose the desire to have sex. Therefore, many men may feel threatened and think they have lost their masculinity. However, it has been shown that testosterone hormone therapy can deliver results within a few weeks of starting treatment.
It is common for men at a certain age to begin to have difficulties urinating, such as incomplete emptying of the bladder or urinating many times during the day and night. Long-term testosterone therapy can reduce these symptoms and improve the quality of life in men.
With low testosterone, men may experience significant emotional changes such as mild depression, distress, feelings of misery, and mild anxiety. Although mood changes do not lead men to seek hormone replacement therapy, improving psychological and emotional health has positive effects on overall well-being.
Is hormone replacement therapy safe?
Despite the benefits that hormone replacement therapy can provide, this treatment is not free of risks, side effects and contraindications. For this reason, it is important to consult a specialist who can offer us the best option to achieve a better quality of life.
Among the best known risks are:
- Endometrial cancer
- Venous thromboembolism
- Breast cancer
- Biliary lithiasis
- Epileptic seizures
All these risks can occur in long-term treatments and at very high doses. That is why the indication and medical supervision is essential to perform a substitutive therapy as effective as safe.
Likewise, do not forget that maintaining a healthy life and modifying some harmful habits in time, favors hormone replacement therapy and helps it to work better on the body.
- (Bill) William J. White, P.-C. (2018, June 12). 9 beneficios de la terapia de reemplazo de testosterona que podrían sorprenderle. Testosterone Centers of Texas. https://tctmed.com/es/beneficios-de-la-terapia-de-sustitucion-de-la-testosterona/
- Martín-Aragón, S., & Benedí, J. (2009). Terapia hormonal de reemplazo. Enfoque en la menopausia. Farmacia profesional (Internet), 23(2), 52–57. https://www.elsevier.es/es-revista-farmacia-profesional-3-articulo-terapia-hormonal-reemplazo-enfoque-menopausia-13134176
- Terapia Hormonal Sustitutiva. (2018, February 25). X115®. https://magazine.x115.it/es/tesi-antirughe/terapia-hormonal-sustitutiva-riesgos-y-beneficios-piel-y-salud/