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Posted: September 09, 2008

Hormone Therapy Improves Sleep, Sexuality, Joint Pain in Older Women


One of the world's longest and largest trials of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has found that post-menopausal women on HRT gain significant improvements in quality of life.


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The international study, published online by the British Medical Journal, involved 2,130 post-menopausal women in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, and assessed the impact of combined estrogen and progestogen hormone therapy on the women’s quality of life. The average age of women in this study was 13 years after menopause and most participants did not have menopausal symptoms.


“Our results show that hot flashes, night sweats, sleeplessness and joint pains were less common in women on HRT in this age group. Sexuality was also improved,” says Professor Alastair MacLennan, leader of the Australian arm of the WISDOM research team (Women's International Study of long Duration Oestrogen after Menopause) and head of obstetrics & gynecology at the University of Adelaide in Australia.


“Overall, quality of life measures improved. Even when women did not have hot flashes and were well past menopause, there was a small but measurable improvement in quality of life and a noted improvement in sleep, sexuality and joint pain. HRT users also had more breast tenderness and discharge compared to those on a placebo,” he says.


“Early start-up side effects can usually be alleviated by adjusting the treatment,” added MacLennan. “For most women with significant menopause symptoms, the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks. The latest analysis of the main long-term randomized control trial of HRT (known as The Women’s Health Initiative) show that breast cancer is not increased by estrogen-only HRT and is only increased in women using combined estrogen and progestogen HRT after seven years of use. This increased risk is less than 0.1% per year of use.


“If a woman feels that HRT is needed for quality of life, then doctors can find the safest regimen for her. She can try going off HRT every 4-5 years, and can then make an informed choice about whether she takes and continues HRT.”


The WISDOM research is independent of the pharmaceutical industry and has been funded by UK, Australian and New Zealand government research bodies.

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