What is Vaginal Atrophy? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

vaginal atrophy, vaginal pain, pain during sex

Your body goes through many changes during menopause. One of those changes has to do with your vagina. The tissue of the vagina becomes thinner and less elastic during this time. This causes painful vaginal dryness and itching. This condition is called vaginal atrophy or genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) because it also affects the urinary tract.

The irritation and dryness associated with vaginal atrophy or GSM can make sex painful and interfere with your ability to experience pleasure during sex. But, the symptoms go far beyond sex. They can cause discomfort with everyday activities like taking a walk. Not only that but the discomfort and itching can make it hard to sleep at night. And, it can lead to dangerous urinary tract infections.

Let’s take a closer look at vaginal atrophy and what you can do to manage this condition.

What is Vaginal Atrophy?

During the menopausal transition, which occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, estrogen levels plummet. This leads to a variety of menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, depression, brain fog, and vaginal atrophy. Vaginal atrophy can be quite uncomfortable due to the symptoms, which include:
-Vaginal dryness
-Vaginal itching
-Vaginal burning
-Painful sex
-Decreased lubrication during sex
-Light bleeding after intercourse
-Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs) Urinary incontinence
-Urgency with urination

How Can I Get Relief From Vaginal Atrophy?

Vaginal atrophy is more common than you might think. According to a study published in the Journal of Menopausal Medicine, it impacts 45 percent of women. However, few women seek treatment. Unlike some of the other symptoms of menopause like night sweats and hot flashes, which eventually go away, vaginal atrophy doesn’t disappear without treatment. The good news is that this condition is easily treated. There are several treatments for vaginal atrophy including:

Estrogen replacement therapy - Estrogen cream (Premarin or Estrace) or an estrogen ring (Estring), placed directly in the vagina, can help significantly with vaginal atrophy. It is perhaps the best treatment for vaginal dryness. This type of hormone therapy is not systematic so it is very safe and doesn’t carry the same risks as oral hormone replacement therapy. You’ll need a prescription for estrogen cream or an estrogen ring, so you will have to visit your doctor.

Vaginal Moisturizer - Vaginal moisturizers like Replens can ease vaginal dryness. These over-the-counter products are good non-hormonal treatment options for women who can’t take estrogen. They can help with sex and reduce irritation at other times.

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Natural Remedies

These natural remedies can help vaginal atrophy symptoms disappear.

Stay sexually active - Sexual activity, with or without a partner, increases the flow of blood to the vagina, which in turn helps keep it healthy.

Ditch the panties when you sleep - At night, sleep in a nightdress. You’ll be more comfortable. This one by Juliemay features organic cotton and silk, which can also help keep you cooler by reducing hot flashes and night sweats. Check out other anti hot flash clothing by Juliemay.

Choose comfortable panties for the daytime - Select ones that are made of a blend of cotton and silk. You’ll feel a lot more comfortable. And, silk and cotton are the best for vaginal health. Don’t forget to pick out a matching bra! Attractive, high-quality lingerie can make you feel more sexy and confident, something that’s important in menopause.

Avoid scented products - Don’t use scented lotions, soaps, or douches in or around the vagina.

Quit smoking - If you smoke, quit. The nicotine in cigarettes interferes with your body’s natural production of estrogen.

Final Thoughts

Vaginal atrophy is one of the most common yet debilitating conditions associated with menopause. Fortunately, there are a variety of things you can do to reduce symptoms, including using hormonal creams, staying sexually active, and wearing comfortable underwear that support good vaginal health.

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