Signs you need hormone replacement therapy
Hormones are chemical substances that regulate the proper functioning of the body. They are secreted by glands and travel through the bloodstream to reach the organs and tissues where they perform their functions.
Our body produces an endless number of hormones, each one designed for a specific purpose. Among them are the well-known sex hormones responsible for developing the primary and secondary sexual characteristics that distinguish women and men.
What is the role of sex hormones?
Sex hormones play many roles in the body, ensuring individuals’ physical and emotional well-being. They are involved in puberty, sexuality, and fertility. They act not only in the sexual organs but also in other parts of the body, such as the hair, brain, bones, muscles, and skin.
The main female hormones are estrogen and progesterone, both produced by the ovaries. They play a crucial role in regulating the menstrual cycle. They are also responsible for the development of secondary sexual characteristics such as:
- Breast growth.
- Widening of the hips.
- Deepening of the voice.
In men, the male sex hormones are the androgens, and testosterone is the most important of this group. It is produced by the testicles and is responsible for the production of sperm, which is essential for reproduction.
On the other hand, testosterone is also responsible for the development of male secondary sexual characteristics such as:
- Deepening of the voice.
- Growth of beard and body hair.
- Widening of the shoulders.
What happens to these hormones over the years?
As the years go by and we age, many body functions begin to decline. Thus, the production of these hormones slowly decreases as part of the natural aging process.
So, just as women go through the famous menopause, men also go through a similar stage called andropause, where symptoms that can be uncomfortable appear. However, for some people, these hormonal changes come too soon, and the presence of specific symptoms or the combination of symptoms can significantly alter and deteriorate the quality of life.
But what can we do when these symptoms become so accentuated that they affect lifestyle and well-being? Nowadays, doctors and science provide us with several options.
What is hormone replacement therapy?
Hormone replacement therapy is a treatment that consists of the administration of sexual hormones. Estrogens and progesterone in postmenopausal women or testosterone in andropause men. The main objective is to counteract the signs and symptoms that affect the patient’s quality of life.
This therapy may also be indicated for those with deficiencies in sex hormone production for reasons other than advanced age. However, in any of the cases, a physician must suggest a medical evaluation, not before ruling out other possible causes.
When to use hormone replacement therapy?
It is necessary to know the signs that indicate the time to use hormone replacement therapy. These vary between men and women. When several of these signs are present or when the symptoms are unbearable, it is necessary to consider the use of hormone replacement therapy.
Signs in women
One of the symptoms that most generate complaints and intolerance in patients is hot flashes. The burning sensation in the chest, accompanied by intense sweating, lasts a few minutes or sometimes more.
Sex hormones influence psychological and emotional well-being. Therefore, if you feel that your mood is not what it used to be, more sensitive, or angrier, it may be due to low estrogen levels. These hormonal changes can involve significant psychological changes and lead to depression and anxiety.
Decreased sexual desire
A proper hormonal balance ensures good performance and enjoyment of sex. When this balance disappears, and estrogen levels begin to drop, uncomfortable symptoms and signs may appear like vaginal dryness, pain and discomfort during intercourse are some signs. You may even experience a lack of energy and fatigue.
So, if you feel tiny in the way of sex to the point of not even thinking about it, you may need hormone therapy.
There is a direct relationship between estrogen deficiency and osteoporosis. It is estimated that between 3 to 5 years after the onset of menopause, osteoporosis is diagnosed in women. This is alarming because of the high risk of fractures that can occur.
Low estrogen and progesterone levels can lead to sleep problems. Suppose almost every day you wake up during the night, can’t get back to sleep, or wake up in the morning feeling unrested. In that case, this problem needs to be addressed and may be due to a hormonal imbalance. Not sleeping well can lead to other ailments, such as anxiety and fatigue.
The decrease in sexual hormones produces low levels of collagen that favor hair loss. Collagen is essential for hair, providing strength, elasticity, and shine.
Hormone therapy has been successful in restoring hair loss due to hormonal imbalance. Suppose you lose hair for no reason or more than you lost weeks or months ago. In that case, it is a sign that you probably need hormone replacement therapy.
Signs in men
Decreased sexual performance
With low testosterone levels, men may have difficulty getting an erection, decreased sexual desire, low semen volume, and smaller testicles. However, many causes can produce erectile dysfunction. Therefore, other causes must be ruled out before resorting to hormone replacement therapy.
Increased body fat
During andropause, it is common for men to start gaining weight faster than usual. Low testosterone levels produce this effect, which may warrant hormone replacement therapy.
Loss of muscle mass
When testosterone decreases during andropause, signs of muscle loss appear. There is not necessarily a weakness or inability to get up or move from place to place; still, your body may not look the same as before.
Men may also experience symptoms of fatigue and tiredness with andropause. If you feel tired all the time, you wake up tired, you need to take naps during the day, and you become exhausted quickly may be due to testosterone deficiency.
Men also experience mood swings during andropause due to low testosterone levels.
Decreased mental capacity
Hormonal imbalance favors the appearance of memory problems and reduced mental capacity that can hinder daily life.
Testosterone plays an essential role in bone strengthening. When the amount of this hormone in the body decreases, slow bone mass loss begins, which can generate serious problems such as osteoporosis.
Genetic factors mainly cause hair loss in men. But it can also be caused by hormonal problems.
Sometimes hormonal changes can decrease the number of red blood cells in your blood and cause anemia. Anemia can also be a sign that you may need hormone replacement therapy. If you have dizziness, weakness, leg cramps, difficulty sleeping, and palpitations most of the time, you may be anemic.
If you identify with more than one of these signs or if your symptoms begin to be a problem in your daily life, it is time to consult with your physician about what therapeutic options are available.
Do these signs always indicate the use of hormone replacement therapy?
No. Only a physician can indicate the use of hormone replacement therapy in each patient and each case.
It is essential to remember that this and all hormone therapies are administered under medical supervision and with changes in their habits and lifestyle. It is useless to perform these treatments if we do not maintain a healthy and balanced diet and regular physical activity.
On the other hand, all the signs, signals, and symptoms mentioned above are not exclusive of a sexual hormonal deficiency since many other diseases present similar symptoms. If you have presented any signs, visit your doctor, and do not wait for your quality of life to deteriorate. Your health and well-being are essential.
What therapies exist?
In the case of women, the most commonly used hormone replacement therapies are estrogenic and combined with progesterone. The decision of which of the two will depend on the patient’s symptoms and medical criteria.
In the case of men, the therapy to use is testosterone therapy. There are multiple administration forms, either by pills, injections, patches, or gel, among many others.
Facing these changes is a natural part of human life, but making them more bearable can be an option. Consult your physician and improve your quality of life.
- Northup, D. (2022, February 11). 14 signs you need hormone replacement therapy. InShapeMD | Louisville, KY. https://www.inshapemdlouisville.com/signs-hormone-replacement-therapy/
- Clair, D. (2022, October 11). What are the signs that you need hormone replacement therapy? Griffin Concierge Medical. https://griffinconciergemedical.com/signs-you-need-hormone-replacement-therapy/
- Vallejo Maldonado, S. (2018). Menopausal hormone therapy, why prescribe it? Peruvian Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 64(1), 51–59. https://doi.org/10.31403/rpgo.v64i2058