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.