What is Vaginal Atrophy?

Women living with vaginal atrophy

As women age, their estrogen levels drop. All sorts of symptoms may appear when this occurs, including hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, and insomnia. Another common and uncomfortable side effect of estrogen loss, whether through menopause or because of an ovariohysterectomy, is vaginal atrophy.

Fortunately, a gynecologist can help women suffering from this problem and relieve vaginal atrophy symptoms.

What Causes Vaginal Atrophy?

Also known as atrophic vaginitis, vaginal atrophy refers to the thinning, inflammation, and lack of moisture often accompanying menopause. Postmenopausal women have far less estrogen in their bodies than their pre-menopausal counterparts.

While menopause or hysterectomy are the major triggers for vaginal atrophy, they are not the only reasons women may experience this condition. Women who have undergone chemotherapy, pelvic radiation therapy, and other cancer treatments may also suffer from vaginal atrophy, even if their treatment did not push them completely into menopause.

Vaginal Atrophy Symptoms

Vaginal atrophy does not just affect the vagina but may also involve the urinary tract. Symptoms of vaginal atrophy include:

  • Pain during intercourse
  • Bleeding post-intercourse
  • Vaginal burning
  • Vaginal infections
  • Little to no lubrication during intercourse
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Urinary burning
  • Urinary tract infections

Vaginal atrophy does not affect every menopausal woman. There are certain risk factors that make the condition more likely. These include little or no sexual activity, no vaginal birth, and smoking.

Vaginal Atrophy Treatment

For some women, using a lubricant during sex or a vaginal moisturizer is enough to relieve their vaginal atrophy symptoms. For many women, however, those actions are insufficient. After conducting a thorough examination, a doctor may prescribe a type of estrogen treatment to aid vaginal atrophy sufferers.

In some cases, a doctor may prescribe a vaginal estrogen cream that is inserted directly into the vagina via an applicator. After a few weeks of daily use, most women can taper down to once or twice a week and still benefit.

Another option is a vaginal tablet. This estrogen tablet is inserted into the vagina. The women may have to replace the tablet daily for a certain period, then cut back to inserting it a few times weekly.

Finally, a doctor may insert a vaginal ring. In this procedure, the doctor inserts a soft ring containing estrogen into the vagina. The ring releases a steady amount of estrogen but requires replacement approximately every three months.

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy for Vaginal Atrophy

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy will not only stop the symptoms of vaginal atrophy and restore the vagina to health, but it will also address other common menopausal symptoms.

Unlike standard hormone replacement therapy, which is derived from pregnant mares’ urine, bioidentical hormone therapy comes from plant sources. Bioidentical means the hormones are exactly the same on the molecular level as those the woman’s body produced during her reproductive years. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is available in patch, tablet, transdermal, and gel forms.

Unlike standard hormone replacement therapy, it does not increase the risk of developing breast cancer or cardiovascular disease and protects against many diseases of aging, including osteoporosis, macular degeneration, and Alzheimer’s disease. This therapy is custom-tailored for each patient and made in a state-of-the-art compounding pharmacy to the doctor’s exact specifications.

Ask a Doctor About Vaginal Atrophy

Vaginal atrophy or vaginitis refers to the thinning, inflammation, and lack of moisture of the vagina. Though it often comes with aging, there are ways to reduce the signs and symptoms.

If you would like more information about vaginal atrophy treatment or bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, call the office of Dr. Edward Jacobson today and schedule a consultation.