Vaginal atrophy is a change in the vaginal tissue that occurs when levels of the female hormone estrogen drop significantly. Atrophic vaginitis is another name for the disease.
Estrogen, which is generated by the ovaries, is essential for maintaining the lubrication and health of vaginal tissues. Vaginal tissue becomes atrophic – thin, dry, and shrunken — when estrogen levels are low. In an atrophic condition, the vagina may become more prone to inflammation.
Low estrogen levels induce vaginal atrophy in the following conditions:
*Menopause occurs when natural age-related changes in the body force the ovaries to produce less estrogen.
*Surgically removed ovaries before natural menopause, which can be done at the same time as a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus).
*Women with diseases like uterine fibroids or endometriosis are treated with medicines that lower estrogen levels.
*Premature menopause is defined as the onset of menopause before the age of 40, which is earlier than the average woman's age of menopause.
*Vaginal atrophy usually progresses slowly enough that a woman may not detect any symptoms until five to 10 years after menopause has begun.
Educative read: 7 CANCER-PREVENTION METHODS.
The following are some of the most common symptoms of vaginal atrophy:
*Dryness of the vaginal canal
*Itching or a burning feeling in the vaginal area
*Sexual encounters that are painful
Diagnosis: light bleeding after intercourse
If you're a middle-aged woman, your doctor will inquire about whether you've begun menopause or have been having menopausal symptoms (absent or irregular menstrual periods, mood swings, hot flashes, difficulty sleeping at night, night sweats).
Whether you're a woman of reproductive age, your doctor will ask if you're nursing or if you're experiencing irregular menstruation cycles, which might be caused by low estrogen levels or a hormonal imbalance in women. Your doctor will also go over your medical and surgical history, as well as inquire about any current drugs you're on.
Based on your age, symptoms, and medical history, your doctor may suspect vaginal atrophy. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will do a pelvic examination, looking for indications of dryness, redness, and tissue thinning in your vulva and vagina.
If you are menopausal and experience bleeding after intercourse, your doctor may recommend an endometrial biopsy to check for endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterine lining). A tiny sample of tissue from the uterine lining is taken and analyzed in a laboratory during this operation. A Pap test may be used by the doctor to look for an issue with the cervix.
Until the disease is cured or estrogen levels return to normal, the condition will persist.
To hydrate the tissues and prevent painful sexual contact, a water-soluble vaginal lubricant can be utilized. Sexual activity on a regular basis might also assist to avoid symptoms. This is because sexual activity promotes vaginal blood circulation, which aids in the maintenance of vaginal tissue.
Treatments range from over-the-counter moisturizers to hormone treatments available only by prescription. Nonhormonal moisturizers and vaginal lubricants can help women manage minor discomfort during sexual intercourse. Sexual activity may help to alleviate the discomfort. If none of these methods works, low-dose estrogen in the form of a cream, pill, or ring injected into the vaginal canal may be required. The following is a breakdown of how the various choices work:
Moisturizers for the vaginal area. Water-based vaginal moisturizers cling to the vaginal surface, releasing water and leaving a wet film on the tissue. They also aid in the restoration of vaginal pH. Replens, for example, is a moisturizer that is applied with an applicator and lasts up to three days. K-Y Liquibeads, a silicone-based product, comprises tiny beads that are also injected using an applicator and last up to four days. If vaginal dryness bothers you all of the time, not just during sexual activity, moisturizers are an excellent alternative.
Lubricants for the vaginal canal. During intercourse, you may wish to apply a lubricant in addition to a moisturizer. Astroglide, for example, is a transparent, thin, odourless liquid with a slick texture that closely resembles natural vaginal secretions. It can be applied to the vaginal entrance or the penis before intercourse. Astroglide is a non-staining, water-based solution with a neutral pH that won't irritate or cause vaginal infections. Lubricates such as olive oil can help. There are several lubricants available, but no comparative studies have been conducted.
Vaginal estrogen at a low dosage. Estrogen can help restore normal vaginal pH and good bacteria, thicken the epithelium, enhance vaginal secretions, and lessen vaginal dryness in any form - oral, transdermal (through skin patch), or vaginal. However, it is preferable to administer the estrogen directly to the vaginal area. When compared to oral or transdermal estrogen, vaginal administration requires a lower dose and exposes the breast and endometrial tissues less, which can raise the risk of cancer by promoting cell proliferation. Vaginal creams (Estrace and Premarin), the vaginal pill Vagifem, and Estring are all low-dose estrogen medications that are especially suggested for the treatment of vaginal atrophy, it is an estradiol-infused silicone ring that sits around the cervix and provides a modest, consistent dosage of estrogen.
Skincare read: DRY SKIN: DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENT AND PROGNOSIS
When Should You See A Professional?
If you have any vaginal bleeding, dryness, burning, or itching, or if painful sexual intercourse is not alleviated by a water-soluble lubricant, make an appointment with your doctor.
For the most part, the prognosis is positive.