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Estradiol is a naturally occurring female sex hormone that is primarily responsible for sexual development and reproductive functioning. Once a woman experiences menopause, a period in which her ovaries stop producing eggs, and she can no longer become pregnant, the levels of female sex hormones in the body may decrease. Decreased female hormones may lead to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms; therefore, synthetic hormones may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms by replacing and restoring hormone levels. One possible medication that may be prescribed is estradiol cream, a topical ointment containing synthetic estradiol hormones that is applied to the vaginal walls.
A variety of symptoms related to menopause may be treated with estradiol cream. Some of the most common symptoms that occur during and after menopause that the cream may treat include vaginal itching, burning, and feelings of dryness. It may also be effective at treating hot flashes, or abrupt and inexplicable feelings of warmness and sweating, as well as sudden or more frequent urination caused by menopause.
Estradiol cream usually comes with a tube of the cream, as well as an applicator that is inserted into the vagina to allow for easier administering. The applicator is similar to a needle-less syringe. The cream is squeezed into the applicator’s barrel, and then inserted into the vagina by pushing on the applicator’s plunger, which forces the cream into the vaginal canal in a swift motion. It is typically recommended for a woman to lie on her back with her knees up before inserting the applicator for the most comfort and easy application of the medication.
Although it is generally considered safe, certain side effects may occur with the use of estradiol cream. Common side effects tend to include a lowered sexual desires, swelling of the breasts, nausea, acne, swelling of the feet, ankles, and hands, dizziness, and headache. These side effects are usually not considered serious enough to require medical attention and normally go away after regular usage of the medication. If an allergic reaction to the medication is suspected due to swelling of the face, tongue, or mouth, skin rash, or difficulty breathing after using the cream, then immediate medical attention is typically recommended. Other rare, serious side effects include severe abdominal pain, redness and swelling in one leg, changes in vision or speech, and abnormal bleeding from the vagina, and emergency care is usually advised.
Estradiol cream is typically only recommended for short-term use of less than six months. Long-term use of the cream may make a woman more likely to develop endometrial hyperplasia, a condition in which excessive cells build up on the lining of the uterus. Endometrial hyperplasia may make a woman more likely to develop cancer of the uterus; therefore, a doctor may also prescribe progestin, another type of female hormone that may decrease the risk of endometrial hyperplasia if taken in conjunction with estradiol.