October 01, 2018

Vaginal atrophy

Relieving dryness and pain

Vaginal atrophy — a thinning, drying and sometimes inflammation of vaginal walls — is one of the most common challenges women face after menopause. It's believed that atrophy of vaginal tissues affects up to half of these women. Unfortunately, few women seek help in managing their symptoms. If you're affected, don't shy away from finding solutions or seeking care.

Estrogen's effects

Vaginal atrophy occurs when the estrogen levels in your body drop, usually after menopause. The condition may make intercourse painful due to vaginal dryness or irritation and decreased lubrication during sexual activity. In addition, it often leads to distressing urinary symptoms such as burning with urination, urinary urgency, incontinence and urinary tract infections. Because of the interplay of vaginal and urinary symptoms, vaginal atrophy was reclassified under the name genitourinary (jen-ih-toe-U-rihnar-e) syndrome of menopause (GSM).

Some women may begin to notice symptoms in the years leading up to menopause. Others may not experience a problem until several years into menopause. In addition to naturally occurring or surgically induced menopause, certain radiation therapies, anti-estrogen hormone therapies and chemotherapies for cancer also may impact estrogen levels enough to cause vaginal and urinary changes.

Relief for dryness

If you experience vaginal dryness or irritation, there are actions and products that can help:

  • Try a vaginal moisturizer — Over the-counter products such as K-Y LiquiBeads, Replens and Sliquid Satin can be used to restore moisture to the vaginal walls. These products are applied several times a week usually at bedtime.
  • Use a...