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An estradiol patch is a skin patch that has adhesive on it, something like a large, very sticky bandage. It has medication on the patch that is delivered transdermally or straight into the skin when the patch is worn. There are a number of medications people can take via skin patches. Estradiol happens to be hormonal and is a form of estrogen.
There are different reasons why doctors might recommend use of the estradiol skin patch. It might be used for a short while to deal with symptoms due to hormone decline before and after menopause. Doctors might suggest it when women are suffering from extreme discomfort due to vaginal dryness, or if osteoporosis is progressing rapidly. At other times, the patches might be used to treat disorders associated with menstruation like bleeding between periods, failure to ovulate, or other infertility issues.
Doctors may give varying directions on how long to use each patch. Typically if women have previously been on any oral estrogen, they start using the estradiol patch until a week after they’ve discontinued the oral form of the hormone. The patch is then placed directly on the skin, but never on the breast, and typically adheres to the skin quite easily, provided the area chosen is clean and won’t have contact with things like tight waistlines on clothing. People can pursue normal bathing activities without fear of the patch falling off.
Depending on doctor’s instructions, the estradiol patch is usually changed every three to four days. Some people find the adhesive a little irritating. Women are often instructed not to put the patch on the same place when removing and replacing one. Varying the location may help with skin irritation and adherence. Doctors may have more instructions on placement, removal, and schedule of patch changes.
As beneficial as the estradiol patch may be for some conditions, this is also a medication that can be highly dangerous and comes with a great deal of warnings. Pregnant women should never use estradiol transdermally because it may result in birth defects, and breastfeeding women should not use this medication either. It is also contraindicated in most women who have had any type of bleeding or clotting disorders, issues with circulation and especially previous history of stroke, and cancer of the breast or uterus.
It is known that breast and uterine cancer risk increase when women use estrogen for longer periods of time. Those with family history of these diseases may be most at risk, but any woman using estrogen, especially after menopause is potentially at risk. It’s important to perform regular breast self-exams, and doctors may want to limit treatment to a few months, or see patients every few months to assess need to continue treatment.
Some very serious side effects may occur when women use the estradiol patch, and women should get immediate medical assistance if they find a lump in their breast, if they have symptoms of stroke, if the skin and eyes become yellow (jaundiced), or they have marked tenderness in the abdomen or pelvis. Other side effects usually don’t warrant emergency attention but should be mentioned to doctors on a subsequent visit, or sooner if they become bothersome. These include stomach upset, acne, disinterest in sex, headaches, spotting between periods, water retention in lower extremities, and changes in mood.