We live our lives unaware how much actually goes on in our bodies – unless, of course, we are medically trained! The complexities of the human body are many. We have several vital organs that each perform essential duties, and a nervous system that controls the overall ‘machine’ so to speak. We take all this for granted – until, that is, something goes wrong.
It’s safe to say that none of us will go through life without experiencing a health problem of some kind. We may have an accident and break a bone, or our sight may worsen or hearing the same. These things happen, and the senses as mentioned are among parts of the body that are affected by something we can do nothing about: getting older.
As each year passes and we celebrate a new one, so we add strain to the systems within us that are performing their jobs. Our bones may weaken, muscles too, and our skin shows clear signs of ageing. But there’s one set of essential substances in our bodies that we overlook – these are hormones, and they’re what we want to talk about here. Let’s begin by looking at the role hormones play in our bodies.
What Do Hormones Do?
The core of this article is about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which is a common procedure for both men and women, but more so in women. So, what are hormones, and what exactly do they do? Hormones are chemicals manufactured in various glands within the body. Some you may have heard of include Testosterone, Estrogen, and Insulin. All hormones play a vital part in our daily lives.
The best way to think of them is as chemical message carriers. When the nervous system senses that an organ needs to something, it sends a message in the form of a hormone via the bloodstream which instructs the organ to perform. Insulin, for example, regulates the blood sugar level and responds when it is out of balance.
We’re more interested, however, in estrogen – a dominant and important hormone in women – and testosterone, which is the ‘male hormone.’ Each of these makes us think of sex and the reproductive organs, and rightly so. However, they both have an effect on bone density, for example, and on muscle tone and development. Estrogen and testosterone also affect our cognitive system, and other areas.
Why does a person need hormone replacement therapy? Because it is likely that – at some point – these important hormones either cease production or reduce. This leads to a hormone imbalance, which can have serious and unpleasant consequences. In fact, for women the reduction in estrogen production is a dead cert, except in truly unique circumstances. This is because she will undergo what is known as the menopause – usually in her mid-forties – so let’s talk about what menopause is, why it happens, and what the symptoms and results may be.
Why Does Menopause Occur?
The female body works on a strict biological cycle. Every month, a young woman ovulates – that is the ovaries produce eggs – and this begins in her early teens and continues into her 40’s (although some women enter menopause earlier, and some later.) The result is the monthly period, a time in which she experiences simply massive hormonal changes.
When menopause arrives, it does so because the reproductive organs have ceased to operate. They have passed their lifetime and are no longer needed. The result is a problematic experience for many women who may suffer the following unpleasant symptoms as they approach and enter menopause:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Heavy bleeding might occur for a day or two
- Excessive sweating during night
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness, itching and pain during sexual intercourse
- Frequent urinary tract infections
- Mood swings
- Weight gain due to uneven fat distribution
This can be daunting and difficult to get used to, and some women suffer very badly from menopause. This is where HRT can help, but before we look at that we need to take a brief look at an issue that affects men known as the andropause.
What is the Andropause?
Andropause is sometimes referred to as ‘male menopause’ although many in the medical world feel that is an unfair tag as it is not suffered by all men. Nor is it necessarily biological. 30% of men will suffer andropause – usually in their 30’s – due to hormonal changes, yet some can suffer because they are heavy smokers, heavy drinkers, or simply live lives that are not healthy. Here are some of the main symptoms of andropause:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Loss of libido
- Weight gain
- Poor self esteem
- Low muscle tone
- Sleep disturbances
So, now we know that hormone deficiency is a problem, how is it addressed?
How is HRT Administered?
HRT is administered using synthetic or bioidentical hormones with the latter being genetically as close to those in the body as is possible. Usually, HRT treatment is administered by injection or by taking pills, or possibly by applying creams and lotions to the skin. A more modern method is to make small incisions in the thigh area and insert pellets that release the hormone into the body.
All HRT methods need repeat treatment as they are not a permanent solution. In an initial consultation you will be asked questions of a personal nature so that the medical professional can determine which is the best method for you. You will also be expected to make changes to your lifestyle should smoke or drink heavily, for example.
If you are unsure of what to expect the consultant will explain all to you in detail before you agree to undergo the treatment but we can assure you that HRT in all forms is entirely safe and is undergone by millions of patients regularly. Contact a West Palm Beach clinic if you think that HRT could be the answer for you, and get that initial consultation booked right now.