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Vaginal atrophy: causes and cures

Vaginal atrophy: causes and cures
AS women get older, they can experience several changes to their bodies which result in discomfort. One change some can expect is the drying out of the vagina which leads to painful sex and urinary problems. This condition, which affects several women during menopause, is referred to as vaginal atrophy or atrophic vaginitis.
According to gynaecologist Dr Douglas McDonald, vaginal atrophy is caused primarily by the decline of oestrogen as women get older, but it does not necessarily affect only older women.
Vaginal atrophy refers to "any condition where there is oestrogen deficiency as in women who are menopausal or women who have been castrated for whatever reasons", said the doctor.
"Suppose a woman has bilateral ovarian cysts and she has removed both ovaries, then she will be oestrogen-deficient," he further explained.
Oestrogen usually stimulates the cells of the vagina to produce glycogen to encourage the presence of helpful bacteria that fights off infection. But its role doesn't stop there, as it also helps the lining of the vagina to be thick, elastic and moist. As oestrogen production reduces, the vagina can become shorter, less elastic and drier.
"As a result of the dryness of the vagina, sex becomes uncomfortable, maybe painful. The vagina bruises easily and there may be a little spotting during intercourse," Dr McDonald pointed out.
Despite pain during intercourse, some medical practitioners suggest that women with vaginal atrophy continue to have sex, and Dr McDonald agrees. But patients do not have to suffer with the condition, as there are several ways to make intercourse less uncomfortable.
"Patients like that, if they are under the menopausal age, we tend to give them some type of oestrogen therapy to restore the integrity of the vagina," the gynaecologist said.
Hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) is usually the best option and has proven to be the most effective because it helps to increase the number of superficial cells in the vagina and helps to restore the overall anatomy while eliminating the symptoms of vaginal atrophy. Still, this form of treatment could lead to issues such as breast tenderness and vaginal bleeding.
In addition to HRT, the doctor pointed out that, "There are lubricant creams available on the market that people can use which can help to facilitate intercourse."
"If you really want to restore the integrity of the vagina, it is best to use the topical hormonal cream rather than the hormonal intake," he said.