Estrogen has many uses, so the benefits of estradiol cream may not be the same for each person. In fact, benefits are different for men who use estrogen than they are for women who use it. With the former, any form of estrogen might only be used in men in rare cases, like to shrink prostate tumors or growths. More commonly estradiol cream is prescribed for women to treat certain conditions.
The most common and accepted reason why estradiol cream could be prescribed is to manage extreme vaginal dryness and itching, usually in postmenopausal women. It has been shown to effectively alleviate this condition for many women and some side benefits to the drug include that it may lessen other menopausal conditions like hot flashes, bone loss, and changes in mood. There is indication that the drug may better promote weight lost in postmenopausal women and it has also been shown as lowering risk of heart attack and decreasing cholesterol levels.
The cream itself is often compared to other forms of estradiol delivery, like the estradiol rings which are inserted into the vagina and which release a steady level of hormones for three months. Some women prefer to use estradiol for a shorter period of time, and want to be able to discontinue it quickly, which is easy to do with a cream form. Alternately, there are pills that contain estradiol, and some women find an increase in digestive upset when they take the pills that doesn’t occur when they use estradiol cream. It bypasses the digestive system and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream.
In terms of actual benefits of the medication, it would be remiss not to discuss its significant risk and the reason why it is not uniformly prescribed for postmenopausal women. There are strong risks to health associated with estradiol cream. People who use estrogens increase likelihood of getting breast and ovarian cancer, elevate risk for stroke (especially if they are over 35), and increase chance of developing blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis). Minor side effects that could occur with estradiol cream include vaginal bleeding, changes in mood, weight gain or loss, nausea, increased risk of high blood pressure, and irregularity in menstrual periods (for menstruating women). In menstruating women, estradiol is not recommended if women plan to get pregnant or are pregnant because it causes birth defects.
A medication like estradiol cream illustrates the delicate balance of risk and benefit. Clearly there are risks to taking this medication, but there are also chances of improved health. Patients who understand both benefit and risk may be confused about what choice to make when offered a medication that is not prescribed out of absolute necessity. The best thing is to consult with a good health professional to review understanding of the drug and make an intelligent determination on whether or not to use it.