Vaginal atrophy is a condition in which the vaginal wall becomes thinner, dryer and inflamed. It is the result of lowering estrogen levels.
This can lead to vaginal pain, pain during sexual intercourse, loss of sex drive and urinary tract infections.
Other symptoms include:
• Dryness and soreness
• Burning in the vagina or when you urinate
• Feeling that you need to urinate all the time
• Urinary incontinence (not being able to stop the flow of urine)
• Bleeding after sex
• Feeling tight or as if your vagina is shorter than usual.
Some women don’t have any noticeable symptoms.
The condition is most common in women who have experienced menopause because this naturally leads to a lowering of estrogen, and estrogen is needed for good vaginal health. Women who are breastfeeding are also more at risk, although the problem is temporary and will correct itself after the child has weaned.
Other higher risk groups are:
Women who have had chemotherapy or radiotherapy to the pelvic area
Women who have had their ovaries removed (for instance, because of cancer)
Women who take medicines for fibroids or endometriosis
Women who smoke
Women who have never given birth vaginally
Vaginal atrophy is diagnosed by a doctor’s examination. He or she will examine your external genitalia (vulva, labia etc.) and your vagina to check for signs of atrophy. Samples of urine and vaginal discharge may also be taken and you may be offered a smear test to rule out malignancies or other changes to the cervix.
Treatment depends on the woman’s medical history and on her symptoms. If symptoms are only mild, she may be able to use home remedies instead of prescription drugs.
Home remedies include:
If a lubricant is used it can ease dryness and soreness and make sex more comfortable. Avoid brands with parabens in them as some scientists say that parabens can be absorbed into the body and the body then mistakes them for estrogen. Although this may relieve some of your symptoms, it may be dangerous for people with other health conditions and cancer.