Vaginal atrophy usually develops after menopause. Reduction in estrogen secretion after menopause leads to this condition.
The vaginal walls of women suffering from vaginal atrophy become thin and swollen. However, with proper treatment, vaginal atrophy could be healed easily.
Causes of vaginal atrophy
Decline in the estrogen level causes vaginal atrophy. The risk of vaginal atrophy is high in women after menopause. It can even occur during the perimenopausal phase. Occasionally, vaginal atrophy develops during breastfeeding. Vaginal atrophy might occur as a side effect of breast cancer or cancer treatments.
Symptoms of vaginal atrophy
Vaginal atrophy is characterized by vaginal dryness, burning, itching and discomfort. It might cause problems of the urinary system. The signs of vaginal dryness often resemble the symptoms of bacterial or fungal infections of the urinary tract. Sexual intercourse becomes painful due to vaginal dryness. Loss in vaginal lubrication often increases the risk of urinary tract infections.
Treatments for vaginal atrophy
Mild vaginal atrophy could be treated with over-the-counter vaginal moisturizers or lubricants. However, over-the-counter lubricants might not heal excessive vaginal dryness. Topical estrogen is the most effective remedy for vaginal dryness.
Vaginal estrogen creams could be applied to the vaginal walls to reduce the discomfort and irritation. Occasionally vaginal estrogen rings are inserted into the vagina to treat this condition.
The estrogen ring gradually releases estrogen in the vagina, lubricating the vaginal walls, and reducing the vaginal dryness.
The ring should be replaced every 3 months. Sometimes vaginal tablets are inserted into the vagina to treat vaginal atrophy. Physicians often recommend hormone replacement therapy for treating vaginal dryness. However, estrogen therapy in any form is not recommended for women with a personal or family history of breast cancer.
Although women with vaginal atrophy lose interest in sexual activities due to pain and discomfort that occur during intercourse, studies have shown that vaginal atrophy could be prevented with regular sexual activities. During sexual activities, blood flow through the vaginal tissues increases, which improves the health of the vagina, reducing vaginal dryness.
Vaginal dryness might be reduced by consuming plant products containing phytoestrogen or plant estrogen. Soy, beans, legumes, potato and apple could reduce vaginal irritation and discomfort.