WHAT IS VAGINAL ATROPHY?
Vaginal atrophy (atrophic vaginitis) is thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal walls due to your body having less estrogen. Vaginal atrophy occurs most often after menopause.
For many women, vaginal atrophy not only makes intercourse painful, but also leads to distressing urinary symptoms. Because of the interconnected nature of the vaginal and urinary symptoms of this condition, experts agree that a more accurate term for vaginal atrophy and its accompanying symptoms is “genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM).”
WHAT DOES VAGINAL ATROPHY FEEL LIKE?
With moderate to severe genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM), you may experience the following vaginal and urinary signs and symptoms:
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal burning
- Vaginal discharge
- Genital itching
- Burning with urination
- Urgency with urination
- More urinary tract infections
- Urinary incontinence
- Light bleeding after intercourse
- Discomfort with intercourse
- Decreased vaginal lubrication during sexual activity
- Shortening and tightening of the vaginal canal
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE POSSIBLE CAUSES OF VAGINAL ATROPHY?
Genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) is caused by a decrease in estrogen production. Less estrogen makes your vaginal tissues thinner, drier, less elastic and more fragile.
A drop in estrogen levels may occur:
- After menopause
- During the years leading up to menopause (perimenopause)
- After surgical removal of both ovaries (surgical menopause)
- After pelvic radiation therapy for cancer
- After chemotherapy for cancer
- As a side effect of breast cancer hormonal treatment
GSM signs and symptoms may begin to bother you during the years leading up to menopause, or it may not become a problem until several years into menopause. Although the condition is common, not all menopausal women experience GSM. Regular sexual activity, with or without a partner, can help you maintain healthy vaginal tissues.
HOW IS VAGINAL ATROPHY TREATED?
To treat genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM), your doctor may first recommend that you:
- Try a vaginal moisturizer to restore some moisture to your vaginal area. You may have to apply the moisturizer every two to three days. The effects of a moisturizer generally last a little longer than those of a lubricant.
- Use a water-based lubricant (Slippery Stuff) to reduce discomfort during intercourse. Choose products that don’t contain glycerin because women who are sensitive to this chemical may experience burning and irritation. Avoid petroleum jelly or other petroleum-based products for lubrication if you’re also using condoms. Petroleum can break down latex condoms on contact.
- Perform Vaginal Dilator Therapy to relax muscles and create blood flow to the area creating natural lubrication. To learn more about Vaginal Dilator Therapy, click here.