Vaginal atrophy is a condition in which the vaginal lining is thinner and drier than it’s supposed to be. When this happens, you’re more likely to develop urinary tract infections, have urinary incontinence, and have pain during sex. Though the symptoms of vaginal atrophy can progress slowly, they generally get to a point where they can significantly affect your life. That’s why it’s important to spot them early and talk to your doctor.
10 Signs Of Vaginal Atrophy
- Persistent itching – this can affect the vulva as well as in and around the vagina.
- An unusual discharge – this discharge is typically yellow but may or may not have an odor.
- Urinary incontinence – you may not be able to hold in your urine as well as you used because of how vaginal atrophy affects the muscles necessary for holding your bladder.
- Burning while urinating – this may vary in intensity but can happen because of how vaginal atrophy affects the bladder.
- Frequent urinary tract infections – a susceptibility to infections is also a result of how vaginal atrophy affects the bladder.
- Pain during sex – the reduced elasticity of the vaginal walls and lower lubrication can make sex painful.
- Unexplained bleeding – the thin and fragile vaginal walls may tear during sex and cause bleeding.
- Difficult penetration during sex – this can happen because vaginal atrophy causes the vaginal canal to tighten and become narrower.
- Urgency with urination – this can occur even if you’re not having trouble holding your urine.
- Decreased vaginal lubrication – this may be apparent during foreplay, masturbation, or sexual intercourse.
What Causes The Condition
Vaginal atrophy is caused by a drop in estrogen levels. When you don’t have optional levels of estrogen in your body, it can result in vaginal tissues being thinner, drier, and less elastic.
Several things can affect your estrogen production including menopause, the surgical removal of both ovaries, breastfeeding, taking birth control pills, undergoing radiation therapy, undergoing chemotherapy, and undergoing hormonal cancer treatment.
Common Treatments For Vaginal Atrophy
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor may suggest trying over-the-counter medications first. Vaginal moisturizers can restore some moisture to your vagina and you usually have to apply it every few days.
Water-based lubricants can also help if your main problem is a lack of lubrication during sex. If these measures are not enough, then your doctor will likely move on to prescription-level medications that will adjust your estrogen levels.
One option is topical estrogen which is available in the forms of creams, tablets, suppositories, or rings. These need to be placed directly in the vagina to be effective.
Alternatively, your doctor may prescribe oral estrogen if you’re having symptoms other than vaginal dryness. Vaginal dilators may also be used to stretch the vaginal muscles if you’re dealing with narrowing.
When To See Your Doctor
While many people experience vaginal atrophy because of a drop in their estrogen levels, statistics show that