Vaginal atrophy, which is sometimes called atrophic vaginitis, or sometimes genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM), usually happens after menopause and can have symptoms that are quite distressing.
Dr. Kevin Jovanovic and Dr. Radoslav Jovanovic specialize in urogynecology and vaginal rejuvenation. They recognize the symptoms of vaginal atrophy, and can suggest appropriate and effective treatment plans that can help you live more comfortably.
What happens when you have vaginal atrophy?
When your body has less estrogen, the walls of your vagina can become thinner and dryer, and inflamed. The lack of moisture and inflammation can make intercourse painful, and can cause urinary tract symptoms.
Here are four of the main symptoms you may experience:
1. Problems having sex
Vaginal atrophy can cause dryness, which, in turn, can lead to discomfort during sex. You may also have light bleeding following sex.
2. Itching, buring, general discomfort
People with vaginal atrophy often experience vaginal discomfort in general. Your genitals may feel itchy, dry, or burn. That is due to the dryness and the inflammation.
3. Urinary problems
You may have problems with urinary leaking, a sense of urgency — like you may not make it to the bathroom in time — or you may have a burning sensation during urination.
4. Increased infections
Vaginal atrophy can lead to more urinary tract infections and more vaginal infections.
Causes of vaginal atrophy
The main cause of vaginal atrophy is lower levels of estrogen, which is why it is most common in women who have passed menopause. However, it can also occur in the years leading up to menopause, called perimenopause, if you’re breastfeeding, if your ovaries have been removed, or if you’re being treated for cancer.
Some factors raise your risk for developing vaginal atrophy. If you’re a smoker, you have a greater likelihood of the condition because smoking interferes with your circulation, and a reduced blood flow to your vagina means less oxygen and poor function.
If you haven’t given birth vaginally, you have a more significant chance of developing vaginal atrophy, though researchers don’t know exactly why. Finally, a lack of sexual acitivity, alone or with a partner, means less blood flow and a higher chance of developing vaginal atrophy.
Problems that may result from vaginal atrophy
In addition to the discomfort of the symptoms of vaginal atrophy, complications can occur. You’re more likely to have vaginal infections and problems with urination.
You may have more urinary tract infections, issues with urgency or leaking, or you may experience a burning sensation when you urinate.
Treatments for vaginal atrophy
More sexual activity is the simplest way to limit the problems caused by vaginal atrophy. Sexual activity increases the blood flow to your vagina and helps it stay more elastic and healthier.
If you have discomfort caused by dryness, you may find that water-based lubricants or vaginal moisturizers are helpful. In some cases, estrogen therapy can be the solution, but whether or not that’s a good option for you depends on several health factors.
If you’re having problems with vaginal burning, urination, or pain during sex, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. Jovanovic. Schedule an appointment and learn the cause of your symptoms so you can begin finding ways to resolve them.