Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is a common treatment option for women experiencing menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness and sometimes osteoporosis. HRT is also known as oestrogen therapy because it replaces the oestrogen hormone in the body once the woman reaches menopause. Oestrogen, an important hormone, is not only beneficial before and during pregnancy, but it is also responsible for maintaining good cholesterol levels and controlling how the body uses calcium.
When a woman’s period stops and menopause begins, hormone levels—including oestrogen levels—drop. This drop results in some of the uncomfortable symptoms mentioned above. To manage these symptoms, a doctor may prescribe HRT which would then replace the oestrogen the body is no longer able to make, and alleviate some if not all of the symptoms associated with menopause.
However, for women with diabetes who are experiencing menopause, HRT as a treatment option may cause concern primarily because one of the roles of oestrogen in the body is to optimize the use of insulin which is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. If insulin is not properly regulated in individuals with diabetes, this could result in negative health consequences.
The scientific community has not reached a consensus on the effects of HRT in women with diabetes. While some studies show that there is a link between high oestrogen levels and increased insulin resistance, a Cochrane Library systematic review cites inconclusive evidence to support this claim. It is worthwhile to note that there are different kinds of HRTs meaning their use could have varying effects on the body’s ability to properly optimize insulin and that all forms of HRT have documented risks associated with their use, regardless of whether they are used in women with or without diabetes.
In conclusion, further research is required to confirm whether or not there are significant health risks associated with the use of human replacement therapy in women with diabetes.
Written by Eleanor Ndaiga