The levels of our hormones in our body can have a significant impact on how happy you are and how healthy you feel. Due to their central action on many critical pathways, a hormone imbalance can have ramifications beyond just hot flashes and night sweats. It can play a role in depression, fatigue, weight gain, libido, anxiety, headaches, vaginal dryness and many other symptoms.
This is what makes hormone replacement therapy such an important topic.
There are a number of hormone replacement therapy options available currently. The three most commonly available options are synthetic hormones, hormones derived from animals, and structurally identical hormones.
Synthetic hormones are the most common form of commercially available hormone replacement that you can find at traditional retail pharmacies. They are often referred to as synthetic because the structure of the hormone is not identical to what is naturally produced by the human body. Pharmaceutical manufacturers add “side chains,” which are basically artificial chemical structures, onto the naturally-occurring hormone structure in order to ensure they can patent and mass produce a drug for profit. Without a side chain, it is more difficult to patent a drug since it is significantly more challenging to patent things that are naturally occurring. Synthetic hormones are available by prescription, and in standardized dosages.
A second class of hormones are those that are derived from animals in some way. Perhaps the most famous example of this is Premarin(R), a commercial medication used to supplement estrogen in women. The estrogens in Premarin(R) are gathered from the urine of pregnant horses. And the structure of horse estrogens is different from human estrogens. Human hormone replacement therapy derived from animals, such as Premarin(R), are available by prescription, and in standardized dosages.
Structurally identical hormones represent hormones that have the same chemical structure as those that are naturally produced by your body. No side chains or animal byproducts are added. At Lloyd Center Pharmacy, we strongly recommend the use of this class of hormone for hormone replacement therapy. It often requires working with a hormone therapy specialist as well as a specialty compounding pharmacy in order to safely and accurately get the correct medication. Structurally identical hormones are available by prescription, and can be personalized to fit your specific medical needs regarding dosage strength and dosage form (cream, pill, lozenge, etc).
Every woman is unique and will respond to therapy in her own way. It is important to work closely with your practitioner to monitor how you are feeling and make adjustments as needed.