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Menopause – can I buy HRT from the pharmacy?

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Menopause is individual to every woman, and treatment should be tailored to her individual symptoms and concerns as she goes through the change in hormones from her late 40s onwards.

Every woman goes through it, but everyone experiences different symptoms and to varying degrees of severity.

Previously women would book an appointment with their doctor to discuss symptoms and treatment options. Still, some women have researched and already think that Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is right for them.

Doctor’s advice

How does HRT help?

Menopause is defined as periods stopping entirely for a year if you are over 50 or for 2 years if you are under 50. In broad terms, it’s when estrogen levels decline, causing symptoms such as hot flushes. At the same time, another female hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), fluctuates up and down until it eventually declines.

So, HRT is used to replace estrogen and thereby reduce certain symptoms. This can be on a body-wide basis – by patches, a spray or gel applied to the skin and absorbed, or by tablets by mouth. Alternatively, it’s applied to areas that rely on rich estrogen levels, such as around the vagina, to ease symptoms.

Some HRT products may also be used to prevent osteoporosis (fragile bones) if this is a particular concern.

What are my options?

Lack of estrogen around the vagina can cause dryness, making women vulnerable to thrush, urinary tract infections, soreness during sex, and also causing discomfort, fragile skin, and itching.

Vaginal estrogen is inserted via vaginal suppositories, cream, vaginal tablets, or a vaginal ring. It helps to restore moisture levels and plumpness to the tissues, thereby relieving symptoms. It’s a good idea to also use a moisturizer in the area and lubrication during sex to ensure optimum comfort. Patches, sprays, and gels are used topically on the skin. A nasal spray is also available.

When should I see my doctor?

HRT requires a prescription from your doctor. They will ask questions about your symptoms to ensure they are prescribing the right treatment. Depending on your health conditions and risk factors, they may suggest other medications or tests and review you regularly.

The aim is for HRT to bridge the months or years when symptoms are troublesome until the fluctuations in hormone levels subside.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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