Atrophic vaginitis, or vaginal atrophy, is a condition that urologists most often diagnosed in women who are already in menopause, but it may also occur at other stages of a woman’s life. Vaginal atrophy is characterized by the thinning and inflammation of the tissues in the vaginal wall, which can cause painful symptoms and sexual dysfunction. Although these issues can be distressing, women should be aware that effective medical treatments are available.
Signs and Symptoms
Vaginal atrophy is a common cause of vaginal dryness, burning, itching, and unusual discharge. Many women also experience urinary symptoms, such as having the urgent need to urinate. A burning sensation may occur with urination and women may develop urinary incontinence. A patient’s history may reflect the increased occurrence of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Sexual intercourse can become uncomfortable or painful and some women may notice light bleeding or spotting afterward. As a result of these problems, it’s not unusual for women with vaginal atrophy to experience sexual dysfunction such as the loss of libido and orgasm problems. Marital distress may develop.
Causes and Risk Factors
The underlying cause of vaginal atrophy is a reduction in estrogen levels, which is why the condition most often affects post-menopausal women and those who are in perimenopause. A substantial decline in estrogen levels may also occur as a result of the surgical removal of the ovaries, cancer treatments, or breastfeeding. Certain factors may increase the risk of vaginal atrophy, including smoking, the lack of sexual activity, and the absence of vaginal births in the patient’s medical history.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is one option for restoring hormonal balance, but it’s generally advisable to consider other treatments first due to the risks of HRT. Women with mild vaginal atrophy may get good results with vaginal moisturizers and water-based lubricants. Women with more severe symptoms might consider drug-free laser therapy, which can provide relief after the first treatment.
The Women’s Institute for Sexual Health (WISH) at Urology Associates, P.C. connects women to caring urology specialists. We treat every patient with the utmost care to sensitivity and confidentiality. If you are experiencing a sexual health problem and live in Nashville, contact us today at 888-656-0667.