Health Watch -- Hormone Therapy

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If you're confused about the potential risks and benefits of hormone-replacement therapy, you're not alone.

Recent news reports about the effectiveness of hormone-replacement therapy, or HRT, and its various risks have left many women confused. They aren't sure whether they should keep taking hormones. To help ease the confusion, the FDA has issued guidelines and launched a campaign to educate women about HRT.

Hormone-replacement therapy, in which women are given doses of estrogen alone or in combination with progestogen, is generally used to treat the symptoms of menopause. In fact, experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say it's the only treatment for symptoms of menopause approved by the FDA. More than 10 million American women use some form of hormone-replacement therapy.

The new FDA guidelines explain the symptoms of menopause that might be eased by HRT, including hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, vaginal dryness and thinning bones. Educational materials provide clear and concise information about HRT so women can decide what's right for them. The campaign is directed at women of menopausal age, generally 45 to 55 years old.

The FDA recommends using hormone therapy for as short a time as possible and at the lowest possible dose. And women should be sure to discuss hormone-replacement therapy with their own doctors before making a decision about starting or stopping HRT.

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Feb. 2004

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