Hormones and Vaginal Atrophy

Hormones and Vaginal Atrophy

Your hormones have a large role to play in your health, especially reproductive and sexual health. Around age 50, most women will begin to go through a change known as menopause, when the body changes from fertility to infertility. Over a period of four to five years, women experience a number of changes that lead to the cessation of ovulation. Sometimes, during menopause, they will develop a condition known as vaginal atrophy. Understanding the symptoms of vaginal atrophy will help women take charge of their health and sexuality.

Understanding Vaginal Atrophy

Vaginal atrophy is a condition that occurs when the vaginal lining thins and dries out during menopause, while breastfeeding or when dealing with other hormonal changes. For some women, the condition causes no symptoms. For others, increased dryness or itching of the vaginal area, increased numbers of urinary tract infections, an increased need to urinate, incontinence, or discomfort during or after sex can be symptoms of this condition.

What Causes Vaginal Atrophy?

Most of the time, a drop in estrogen levels causes vaginal atrophy, which occurs during menopause, while breastfeeding or when the ovaries are removed surgically. It can also be a side effect of certain types of medication, can occur when women smoke, or can be a side effect of breast cancer treatment.

Why Is Vaginal Atrophy Important to Understand?

Women need to understand vaginal atrophy and what can be done about it because of its impact on sexual and emotional health. Sexual activity is an important part of a healthy, well-balanced life. The dryness and discomfort caused by vaginal atrophy can make sex unpleasant, leading to a lack of libido. This can impact a woman emotionally and physically.

In addition, if left untreated, the thinning and drying of the vaginal area can lead to vaginal and urinary tract infections. Vaginal atrophy can also cause problems with sleep and overall enjoyment of life. Yet, in spite of these consequences, only about 7 percent of women will seek treatment when they notice these symptoms for the first time.

How To Diagnose and Treat Vaginal Atrophy

Women who are noticing some of the signs of this condition need to talk to a health care provider who understands hormones and female health. A thorough pelvic exam will help diagnose the condition and any other vaginal health issues that can be contributing to the discomfort.

Vaginal atrophy, when symptoms are mild, can be dealt with using simple treatments, like vaginal moisturizers or lubricants for sexual activity. If the condition is severe or is causing a number of infections, prescription estrogen supplements, creams and other products can help.

How To Get Help

Are you suffering from vaginal atrophy, or do you have questions about your vaginal health? Take a look at the infographic below to learn more about this condition and how it may affect you. You can also get help from an endocrinologist, so contact one in your area today using the Find an Endocrinologist tool from Hormone Health Network.

Download the full infographic (PDF).