November 23, 2014
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Seniors' Health

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Sex and Aging: Use It or Lose It!

Give low hormones the heave-ho!

Give low hormones the heave-ho!

Low hormone levels can lead to flagging sexual desire. But low hormones don't have to spell the end of your sex life! Here are the treatment options available for low hormone levels.

For men with andropause, the main treatment is testosterone replacement therapy. Testosterone is available in patch, injection, gel, topical solution, or capsule form. Testosterone patches, gel and topical solution are all applied once daily. Capsules are given at least twice daily with food. The injection is given once every 2 to 4 weeks in a doctor's office. The most appropriate form of testosterone depends on the man's lifestyle as well as his overall health.

Some of the possible side effects of testosterone replacement therapy include change in mood, hair loss, high blood pressure, weight gain, fluid retention, acne, stimulation of prostate growth, sleep apnea (brief episodes where breathing stops during sleep), increased blood cell production, and decreased sperm production. Testosterone replacement therapy is not suitable for all men - men with prostate or breast cancer should not use it. Keep in mind that for every individual, the balance of benefits and risks may be different. Your doctor or pharmacist can advise you on the risks and benefits of different options in relation to your own health history.

For women, the main treatment for menopause symptoms is hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which means receiving estrogen and/or progesterone. Because using estrogen alone can increase the risk of endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus), women who have not had a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) need to use estrogen in combination with progesterone (which reduces the risk of endometrial cancer by causing the lining of the uterus to shed). Women who have had a hysterectomy are not at risk of endometrial cancer and can use estrogen alone.

Estrogen and progesterone are available in a variety of different dosage forms. Estrogen is available as creams, patches, tablets, vaginal tablets, and a vaginal ring. Progesterone is available as tablets and creams. The tablets and creams are usually used once daily. Patches are usually applied to the skin once or twice weekly. The vaginal tablets are inserted into the vagina twice a week. The vaginal ring is inserted in the vagina and changed once every 3 months.

The benefits of short-term hormone therapy usually outweigh the risks in most women with severe postmenopausal symptoms. However, some of the possible side effects of estrogen replacement include nausea, bloating, breast tenderness, headache, and changes in menstrual bleeding patterns. Possible side effects of progesterone include mood changes, bloating, fluid retention, difficulty sleeping, and headaches.

There are many different forms of HRT, and sometimes switching from one form to another can reduce the side effects and long-term risks a woman experiences. Estrogen plus progesterone may have long-term health risks including a higher risk of blood clots, heart disease, breast cancer, and stroke. Women taking estrogen alone may be at a higher risk of stroke, dementia (problems with memory and thinking), and blood clots. If you are considering HRT, it's important to see your doctor to discuss your own personal balance of risk and benefit.

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