Many women use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as a way of managing symptoms associated with menopause, but new research has discovered it may be linked with a higher risk of developing rare but serious blood clots.
Most HRT work because they contain hormones that the body stops producing after menopause and can reduce symptoms including hot flushes, vaginal dryness, aches and pains and reduced sex life. However, the new research published in the BMJ by researchers at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom has found women who use certain types of HRT are at increased risk of suffering from venous thromboembolism (VTE).
While no risk was found with skin patches, gels or creams, the study found the risk of blood clot was associated with tablets. This is of concern because researchers claim the majority of women on hormone replacement therapy opt for oral forms of medication.
Researchers came to this conclusion after comparing HRT prescription records of more than 80,000 women aged between 40 and 70 who developed blood clots with those of over 390,000 who didn’t.
The study found most HRT were associated with increased VTE risk, compared with no replacement therapy. Tablets that contained equine oestrogen were the worst, showing consistent higher risks than that containing synthetic oestrogen. Higher doses of oestrogen were also associated with higher VTE risk. However, this was not the case when it came to skin patches, gels and creams.
While it was simply an observational study, scientists believe it will prove beneficial to clinicians and women who are considering their treatment options.
The latest study follows reports that hormone therapy doesn’t actually help when it comes to preventing a range of deadly conditions in postmenopausal women.
The study by the U.S Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) looked at 18 previous studies of 40,000 women and found that common hormone replacements such as oestrogen and progestin don’t have any definitive benefit when it comes to tackling the chronic conditions.
Speaking to Web MD, Task Force chairman Dr David Grossman said that while there are some benefits, the risks were not worth it.
“Basically, the task force concluded that there was no overall benefit from taking hormones to prevent chronic conditions,” he said. “There are some benefits, but we believe those potential benefits are outweighed by the harms, making this essentially no net benefit overall.”
It’s always important to discuss the benefits and potential side effects of hormone replacement therapy with a GP or health professional.