Vaginal Atrophy Q & A
What is vaginal atrophy?
As women age, their levels of estrogen and progesterone drop precipitously. Vaginal atrophy is a potential side effect of this hormonal decline, causing the vaginal walls to thin out and become dry, inflamed and hypersensitive. Women with vaginal atrophy tend to experience significant discomfort during intercourse, and they’re also more likely to develop urinary tract infections and vaginal infections.
What symptoms does vaginal atrophy cause?
When atrophy is very mild, it may cause very few or even no noticeable symptoms. As the condition progresses, symptoms can include:
- burning or itching sensations in the vagina
- vaginal dryness
- vaginal discharge
- increased need to urinate or burning during urination
- decreased natural lubrication during intercourse
- painful intercourse
- spotting or light bleeding following intercourse
- tightening of the vaginal canal
- discomfort after intercourse
Although vaginal atrophy is most common during menopause, it can also occur when breastfeeding or in women who have lower levels of estrogen.
What treatments are available for vaginal atrophy?
Treatment begins with an examination and testing to check your urine or measure the acid levels in your vagina. Blood tests may also be ordered. Based on the results of the exam, treatment options may include:
- special moisturizers applied to the vagina every few days to help replenish natural moisture and protect the delicate lining
- lubricants designed fir use during sexual intercourse to decrease friction and relieve discomfort
- estrogen creams applied to the vaginal canal and developed to stimulate lubrication
- hormone replacement therapy using estrogen pills to elevate systemic levels of estrogen
To avoid potentially serious side effects, especially if you’ve had breast cancer or have risk factors for breast cancer, you should only use vaginal lubricants as directed by our staff, and never rely on over-the-counter products, some of which may cause allergic reactions.