Disease: Atrophic vaginitis

Vaginal atrophy, also called atrophic vaginitis, is thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal walls due to your body having less estrogen. Vaginal atrophy occurs most often after menopause, but it can also develop during breast-feeding or at any other time your body's estrogen production declines.

For many women, vaginal atrophy makes intercourse painful — and if intercourse hurts, your interest in sex will naturally decrease. In addition, healthy genital function is closely connected with healthy urinary system function.

Simple, effective treatments for vaginal atrophy are available. Reduced estrogen levels result in changes to your body, but it doesn't mean you have to live with the discomfort of vaginal atrophy.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

With moderate to severe vaginal atrophy, you may experience the following vaginal and urinary signs and symptoms:

  • Vaginal dryness
  • Vaginal burning
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Genital itching
  • Burning with urination
  • Urgency with urination
  • More urinary tract infections
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Light bleeding after intercourse
  • Discomfort with intercourse
  • Decreased vaginal lubrication during sexual activity
  • Shortening and tightening of the vaginal canal

When to see a doctor

By some estimates, nearly half of postmenopausal women experience vaginal atrophy, although few seek treatment. Many women resign themselves to the symptoms or are embarrassed to discuss them with their doctor.

Make an appointment to see your doctor if you experience painful intercourse that's not resolved by using a vaginal moisturizer (Replens, Vagisil Feminine Moisturizer, others) or water-based lubricant (glycerin-free versions of Astroglide, K-Y Intrigue, others) or if you have vaginal symptoms, such as unusual bleeding, discharge, burning or soreness.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Vaginal atrophy is caused by a decrease in estrogen production. Less estrogen makes your vaginal tissues thinner, drier, less elastic and more fragile.

A drop in estrogen levels and vaginal atrophy may occur:

  • After menopause
  • During the years leading up to menopause (perimenopause)
  • During breast-feeding
  • After surgical removal of both ovaries (surgical menopause)
  • After pelvic radiation therapy for cancer
  • After chemotherapy for cancer
  • As a side effect of breast cancer hormonal treatment

Vaginal atrophy due to menopause may begin to bother you during the years leading up to menopause, or it may not become a problem until several years into menopause. Although the condition is common, not all menopausal women develop vaginal atrophy. Regular sexual activity, with or without a partner, can help you maintain healthy vaginal tissues.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Diagnosis of vaginal atrophy may involve:

  • Pelvic exam, during which your doctor feels (palpates) your pelvic organs and visually examines your external genitalia, vagina and cervix. During the pelvic exam, your doctor also checks for signs of pelvic organ prolapse — indicated by bulges in your vaginal walls from pelvic organs such as your bladder or rectum or stretching of the support tissues of the uterus.
  • Urine test, which involves collecting and analyzing your urine, if you have urinary symptoms.
  • Acid balance test, which involves taking a sample of vaginal fluids or placing a paper indicator strip in your vagina to test its acid balance.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Vaginal atrophy increases your risk of vaginal infections and urinary problems.

  • Vaginal infections. Vaginal atrophy leads to a change in the acid balance of your vagina, making you more likely to get a vaginal infection (vaginitis).
  • Urinary problems. Atrophic vaginal changes are associated with changes in your urinary system (genitourinary atrophy), which can contribute to urinary problems. You might experience increased frequency or urgency of urination or burning with urination. Some women experience more urinary tract infections or incontinence.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Regular sexual activity, either with or without a partner, may help prevent vaginal atrophy. Sexual activity increases blood flow to your vagina, which helps keep vaginal tissues healthy.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Some alternative medicines are used to treat vaginal dryness and irritation associated with menopause, but few approaches are backed by evidence from clinical trials. Interest in complementary and alternative medicine is growing, and researchers are working to determine the benefits and risks of various alternative treatments for vaginal atrophy.

Talk with your doctor before taking any herbal or dietary supplements for perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate herbal products, and some can be dangerous or interact with other medications you take, putting your health at risk.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

If you're experiencing vaginal dryness or irritation, these measures may provide some relief:

  • Try an over-the-counter moisturizer (Replens, Vagisil Feminine Moisturizer, others). This can restore some moisture to your vaginal area.
  • Use an over-the-counter water-based lubricant (glycerin-free versions of Astroglide, K-Y Intrigue, others). This can reduce discomfort during intercourse.
  • Allow time to become aroused during intercourse. The vaginal lubrication that results from sexual arousal can help reduce symptoms of dryness or burning.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Certain factors may contribute to vaginal atrophy, such as:

  • Smoking. Cigarette smoking affects your blood circulation, resulting in the vagina and other tissues not getting enough oxygen. Smoking also reduces the effects of naturally occurring estrogens in your body. In addition, women who smoke typically experience an earlier menopause.
  • No vaginal births. Researchers have observed that women who have never given birth vaginally are more likely to develop vaginal atrophy than women who have had vaginal deliveries.
  • No sexual activity. Sexual activity, with or without a partner, increases blood flow and makes your tissues more elastic.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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