Vaginal Atrophy: A Condition That Causes Thinning, Drying of Vaginal Walls
In the years leading up to menopause or after menopause, one in three women is likely to develop symptoms related to vaginal atrophy, also known as atrophic vaginitis. The condition refers to the deterioration of vaginal tissues, due to a decrease in estrogen levels, which can lead to thinning, dryness, irritation, and inflammation of the vaginal wall. This can increase the risk of women contracting vaginal and urinary infections, and cause pain during intercourse.
What Causes Vaginal Atrophy?
While the condition is most common in menopausal women, it is possible for the condition to occur any time the body’s estrogen production decreases, states a report by Harvard Health. This could happen due to chemotherapy, radiation, removal of ovaries during a hysterectomy, or the use of certain therapies and drugs used to treat conditions such as fibroids and endometriosis.
But, because the condition is not widely discussed, very few women end up seeking treatment. While some of them believe it is a normal part of the aging process or a consequence of menopause, others don’t end up approaching a doctor because of stigma.
What are the symptoms of vaginal atrophy?
Vaginal atrophy usually develops slowly, therefore, women may not notice symptoms until five to ten years after hitting menopause. However, common signs include vaginal dryness, itching, painful intercourse, or light bleeding after intercourse. Burning sensations or frequent urination, recurring urinary tract infections are other possible signs of vaginal atrophy.
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How is vaginal atrophy treated?
Mild symptoms, like dryness, can be addressed with lubricants during sexual intercourse. Regular sexual activity may improve symptoms because it leads to an increase in blood circulation to the vagina, which helps maintain the vaginal tissues. Other approaches, such as low-dosage estrogen in the form of creams, tablets, or rings inserted into the vagina, can restore vaginal secretions and ultimately reduces dryness.