What are the Symptoms of Vaginal Atrophy
Vaginal atrophy, also called atrophic vaginitis, is a disorder characterized by the narrowing of the vaginal walls, the lack of natural lubrication and, consequently, the appearance of dryness and inflammation in the genital area. This is a very common problem in menopausal women as it is caused by a decrease in oestrogen levels in the female body. It can also appear in other stages of life and be a symptom associated with other factors, but in all cases proper treatment will be necessary to reduce symptoms and prevent other problems such as vaginal infections or urinary tract disorders. To discover more details in the next OneHowTo article we show you what the symptoms of vaginal atrophy are, as well as their causes and the possible forms of treatment available.
Vaginal atrophy or atrophic vaginitis is a condition that occurs as a consequence of decreased oestrogen levels in the female body. This is the main female sex hormone and among other functions we find that of distributing fat through the body, providing nutrients to the epithelial cells of the vagina as well as promoting the thickening and lubrication of the vagina.
The decrease of oestrogen is common among women who are menopausal. About 50% of women presented atrophic vaginitis at this stage or after it, as well as other symptoms associated with the hormonal change that occurs in the female body. However, this not a condition that can only arise in menopause. There are many other factors which can lead to decreased oestrogen and conditions of vaginal atrophy. These are:
- During breastfeeding.
- Taking certain medicines that can lower oestrogen levels, such as those administered for the treatment of breast cancer, endometriosis or fibroids.
- After cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation applied to the pelvic region.
- Following the removal of the ovaries.
- Suffering from severe stress or depression.
- Excess physical exercise.
- Never having given vaginal birth.
Vaginal atrophy is characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the vaginal walls and the appearance of dryness due to a lack of natural lubrication. All this increases the risk of health problems in the genital area, such as vaginal infections and urinary tract infections. It can be an asymptomatic condition, but when it does become manifest the common symptoms of vaginal atrophy that women may experience are:
- Vaginal dryness.
- Less natural lubrication.
- Vaginal itching or burning.
- Stinging or burning when urinating.
- Whitish vaginal secretions.
- Pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse, a condition known medically as dyspareunia.
- Light bleeding after intercourse.
- Urinary incontinence.
Faced with the symptoms mentioned above it is essential to go to the doctor for diagnosis and to initiate an appropriate treatment. The latter will be necessary to combat vaginal dryness, improve the quality of life of the patient and prevent possible complications and more serious problems that jeopardize the health of the intimate area.
The specialist will perform a physical and pelvic exam to check if the vaginal walls appear thinned and red, as well as more specific tests such as a smear test, an endoscopic exploration or a hormonal study. The latter may be carried out to confirm if the patient has entered the menopause stage.
There are different treatments for vaginal atrophy, but these should be set depending on the severity of the symptoms and the health of each patient. When the symptomatology is moderate or severe the doctor may prescribe a hormone therapy with oestrogen. This can be prescribed for local use by direct application in the vagina. This treatment is available in various formats such as creams, tablets, suppositories, rings, etc., and will serve to avoid the continued appearance of symptoms and ensure the well-being of the patient.
Furthermore, there are specific highly symptomatic cases where it may be necessary to systematically administer oestrogens. However, these can cause significant side effects and should be administered with care in certain patients, such as those suffering from breast cancer.
Furthermore, it is advisable to use moisturisers for the intimate area and vaginal lubricants to combat the problem of vaginal dryness and avoid any issues that may occur during sex. Such lotions increase vaginal lubrication and help keep the area moist for hours. In the case of lubricants for intercourse, the most desirable are those with an aqueous base as the other types could increase the risk of infection.
Besides this, to preserve vaginal discharge and prevent where possible vaginal dryness you should consider the following recommendations:
- Use condoms in all sexual relations.
- Maintain good personal hygiene and ensuring that the vaginal area is clean and dry.
- Wash the genital area before and after sexual intercourse and use a water based lubricant throughout.
- Avoid vaginal washes and harsh soaps, perfumes, deodorants, etc.
- Wear cotton underwear and avoid wearing trousers that are too tight.
- Stay well hydrated by drinking at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water daily.
The remedies to combat vaginal dryness are complementary to the medical treatment and it is advisable to confirm before applying these that their effect will not be counter productive.
If you suspect you're suffering from vaginal dryness go to the gynaecologist to have a better diagnose and a correct treatment.
This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.
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