Atrophic vaginitis

November 12, 2012

Atrophic vaginitis

Vaginal dryness, or atrophic vaginitis, is a condition experienced by many women in their post-menopausal years. They may also experience some bladder difficulties as well as discomfort during sex. However there are effective treatments available for the relief of all of these symptoms. It should also be noted that atrophic vaginitis is, unfortunately, a normal and fairly common part of the aging process – the symptoms are more likely to appear the further past the menopause you are.

The area around the vagina is generally kept in good condition by the production of mucus and fluid in the glands of the cervix – the female hormone oestrogen will affect these glands as well as having a thickening effect on the vaginal lining, oestrogen also contributes to the production of healthy bacteria in that lining. In the post menopausal period the female reproductive system produces less oestrogen – which is the root cause of atrophic vaginitis. These hormonal changes, over a varying period of months or years, will cause physical changes in the genital area as well as in the vagina –

  • Loss of fat tissue and colour from the genital area.

  • Reduction of mucus producing glands

  • Thinning of vaginal tissue

  • Loss of elasticity in the vagina and development of dryness.

It is possible to have some or all of these conditions with little or no effect, however, there are some symptoms which may develop and which can be successfully treated quite simply.

  • Pain or discomfort during intercourse

  • General discomfort and soreness

  • Discharge which may or may not be due to infection.

  • Itch

  • Recurring UTIs or bladder problems

Treatment of atrophic vaginitis will largely depend on symptoms – not all women will have all the symptoms and of course it is possible that the symptoms are caused by something else – which means it is essential to consult your medical practitioner should you experience some or all of these conditions. Because atrophic vaginitis is generally caused by a reduction in oestrogen levels it follows that the symptoms can be alleviated by replacement of that hormone using one of several methods -

  • HRT – either with a patch, implant, gel or orally. This is probably the most successful treatment for any menopausal condition or symptom but many women are reluctant to use it.

  • Localised creams – the use of oestrogen creams is a good alternative for many women since it means that the absorption of oestrogen is directed at the specific area rather than the whole body. In this scenario a cream may be used, or pessary or vaginal ring. This treatment has been found, with persistence, to have a good success rate but does often need to be repeated regularly.

  • Over the counter remedies including lubricating gels – it is quite possible that vaginal dryness is the only symptom of atrophic vaginitis and if so then the use of lubricating gels – which replace moisture in the vagina – may be preferred to the use of hormone treatments. Lubricating gels are available from any good pharmacy without prescription.

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