During menopause, women experience a reduction in estrogen that can lead to multiple health challenges. Vaginal atrophy — also known as postmenopausal atrophic vaginitis — results from lower estrogen levels and causes dryness, thinning and inflammation of the vaginal walls. Following menopause, as many as 40 percent of women may experience symptoms of vaginal atrophy, which can cause problems with urinary functioning and vaginal infections. In addition, vaginal atrophy can lead to pain and discomfort during sexual intercourse.
What is Vaginal Atrophy?
Many women who experience symptoms of vaginal atrophy never seek treatment for the condition due to lack of information. Vaginal dryness is a common problem, especially as women age, and many don’t realize that their doctors may be able to help.
What are the symptoms of vaginal atrophy? If you notice discharge, burning, unusual bleeding, soreness, itching, dryness and discomfort during intercourse, or signs of urinary tract infections, consider speaking to your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Although vaginal atrophy typically occurs in post-menopausal women, it can affect younger women as well. Pre-menopausal women who take certain medications that block estrogen, along with women who have surgeries or medical conditions that reduce estrogen, also may develop the condition. Women who have not yet reached the pre-menopausal stage also can develop vaginal atrophy as the result of chemotherapy, immunologic disorders, radiation therapy and other medical causes.
When estrogen decreases — whether due to menopause or medical procedures or conditions — vaginal pH levels rise and the endometrium thins, predisposing the urinary tract and vagina to mechanical weakening. These changes also can make the vaginal area more susceptible to infection.
Women with vaginal atrophy may first notice a decrease in vaginal lubrication, with other symptoms developing as the condition advances.
When to Speak to a Doctor
If you’re experiencing symptoms of vaginal atrophy, you may think it’s simply a normal part of aging, or you may feel hesitant to speak with your doctor. At the Women’s Sexual Health and Wellness Clinic, in the Detroit area, our specialists help with a variety of sexual health concerns like these, every day.
After confirming a diagnosis of vaginal atrophy, your doctor will work with you to determine an appropriate course of treatment. For some women, hormone replacement therapy can help improve the levels of circulating estrogens as well as restoring a normal pH balance in the body. For women who choose not to take estrogen or who have medical conditions that preclude this therapy, our specialists can recommend additional courses of treatment.
We provide help with vaginal atrophy and any other concerns related to your sexual health in a private and comfortable environment. Our board-certified female OB/GYNs have advanced training and significant experience to provide you with a high level of care and address your concerns.