Refuse to suffer in silence. Learn more.
The first, most important step is to prepare to talk with your health care professional and learn about your options. If your vaginal discomfort is related to a decrease in your estrogen levels, simple, effective treatments are available. There are also helpful lifestyle changes you can make and products you can use during intercourse to make yourself more comfortable. You may also want to start a conversation with your partner to offer reassurance that you are aware of the problem, you are looking for a solution, and you want intimacy to remain a healthy, vital part of your relationship.
Vaginal discomfort ranges from minor irritation to truly debilitating. Together, you and your health care professional will decide what type(s) of treatment are best for you.
Nonprescription options: lubricants and moisturizers.
Non-hormonal vaginal lubricants can help decrease friction and discomfort during intercourse. These must be water-based and designed for vaginal use. Vaginal moisturizers can help relieve dryness and rebalance the acidity of the vagina. You may prefer a moisturizer if you have irritation or burning that is not limited to sexual activity.
Local estrogen therapy (LET)
If you've been diagnosed with vaginal atrophy, treatment most often takes the form of estrogen applied directly to the vaginal tissues. This is called local estrogen therapy, or LET. With LET, the estrogen goes directly into the tissues that are most affected. There is minimal absorption of estrogen into the bloodstream, so it does not affect the whole body. Local estrogen therapy is the administration that does not result in clinically significant systematic absorption. LET is most appropriate for vaginal discomfort. It has been proven to relieve vaginal dryness, restore the thickness and flexibility of vaginal tissues, and restore a healthy chemical balance inside the vagina. It is not prescribed for hot flashes and other common whole-body symptoms of menopause.
Some women may end up using both prescription medications and non-hormonal vaginal lubricants or moisturizers to ease uncomfortable symptoms. Learn more about choosing nonprescription options.
Only you and your health care professional can decide if local estrogen treatment is right for you, based on your individual health history and current symptoms.
If your health care professional recommends LET, you can discuss the different options available to find out what dosing form and level fits your needs the best.
Click here to learn more about one available LET treatment option that is clinically proven to relieve the symptoms and discomfort associated with vaginal atrophy.
Systemic hormone therapy (HT)
Options for HT include tablets, patches, gels, or emulsions. These forms allow estrogen to circulate throughout the bloodstream and to all parts of the body, affecting many different tissues. Almost all of the systemic forms have the potential to provide the full range of benefits and risks associated with HT. Low dose HT products relieve hot flashes and do not lower osteoporosis risk.
Become an educated consumer. With or without prescription medications, many women use non-hormonal vaginal lubricants and moisturizers to ease uncomfortable symptoms.
Choose water-based lubricants to help reduce discomfort during intercourse. Look for products especially designed for vaginal use. Be sure to avoid petroleum jelly and oil-based products. These can damage condoms and diaphragms and increase the likelihood of infection. Body lotions and hand creams contain alcohol and perfumes that can increase vaginal irritation.
Nonprescription vaginal moisturizers that can be used alone or along with LET are also available.
Avoid products that can irritate vaginal tissues, including:
- Harsh soaps
- Bubble baths and bath oils
Note that vinegar douches or vaginal applications of yogurt-type cultures are not effective or recommended. Antihistamines that you may take for allergies also tend to dry the tissues of the vagina.
Don't just talk the talk, walk the walk.
Do your best to stay healthy and active. A balanced diet and regular exercise are good for body and mind. In particular, drink lots of water (to keep tissues moist), and do not smoke cigarettes. Women who smoke have more severe symptoms of vaginal atrophy.
Regular sexual activity can actually help improve natural lubrication and maintain the elasticity of your vaginal tissues. Of course, avoid anything that hurts, but explore sensual massages and other forms of touching and intimacy that feel good to you.
Remember, your health care professional is the main source of information about you and your health. Please consult your health care professional if you have any questions about your health or your medications. Estrogen therapy may not be appropriate for all women, so you may want to discuss the risks and benefits of estrogen therapy with your health care provider.
Click here to learn more about one available treatment option that is clinically proven to relieve the symptoms and discomfort associated with vaginal atrophy.