Atrophic Vaginitis

Are you in the postmenopause phase? If so, you should adopt some lifestyle changes to prevent atrophic vaginitis. This condition is seen in women mostly after the menopause due to decreased estrogen levels. Up to 40 percent of women who are in postmenopausal phase have symptoms of atrophic vaginitis.

Atrophic vaginitis is the inflammation of vagina that leads to thinning of the wall and decreased lubrication. It is also called as genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM).

The condition leads to painful sexual intercourse and distressing urinary symptoms. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Thinning of the vaginal wall
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Vaginal burning
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Burning micturition
  • Atrophic urethritis
  • Itchiness of the skin around vagina
  • Frequent urinary tract infections
  • Urinary incontinence

Decrease in estrogen levels causes atrophic vaginitis leading to thinning of the vaginal wall. The condition decreases elasticity of the vaginal wall making it more fragile and susceptible to injuries.

Besides menopause, atrophic vaginitis can also occur during breast-feeding, after removal of ovaries, after chemotherapy for treatment of cancer, after pelvic radiation therapy for cancer or after hormonal therapy for breast cancer.

Your risk for atrophic vaginitis increases if you smoke. Smoking affects action of estrogens in the body and also affects blood circulation in the vagina. If you have never given birth vaginally, risk for atrophic vaginitis increases. Sexually inactive women are also at risk of developing this condition as sexual activity increases blood circulation and elasticity of the vaginal wall.

Complications of the atrophic vaginitis include vaginal infections and urinary system atrophy. Acidic environment in the vagina makes it more prone for bacterial infections.. In case of urinary system atrophy, there will be incontinence, increased susceptibility to urinary infections, and burning micturition.

Your doctor may ask you questions about your health history, medications, perfumes, soaps, lubricants, and other products that you use. This information would be helpful because some cosmetics are sensitive to sexual organs, your doctor may understand the underlying causes. Other tests performed are:

  • Pelvic examination: External genitalia are examined to observe physical signs of atrophy.
  • Vaginal smear test: Vaginal tissue is scraped from the vaginal wall to examine cells for the presence of bacteria that cause atrophy.
  • Vaginal acidity test: A paper indicator strip is inserted into the vagina to collect vaginal secretions for examination.
  • Blood and urine tests: These tests help to know the estrogen levels in the body.

The atrophic vaginitis treatment goals are to treat symptoms and the underlying causes.

Topical estrogens: These are available in the form of creams or vaginal tablets. Creams are applied at the night time on to the vagina with the help of an applicator. Vaginal tablets are inserted into the vagina with the help of a disposable applicator. Initially, you have to use topical estrogens for a couple of weeks and later one or two times a week.

Oral estrogens or hormone replacement therapy: Your doctor prescribes oral estrogens to treat vaginal dryness and hot flashes. These drugsare not prescribed for prolonged use as they may cause cervical cancer. However, if you have a history of cancer, your doctor doesn’t prescribe oral estrogens.

Progestin is the synthetic estrogen which is available in the form of pill or patch. The drug may cause bleeding, so consult your doctor immediately if you experience postmenopausal bleeding.

Moisturizers or lubricants: vaginal lubricants or moisturizers can help treat your vaginal dryness.

The symptoms must improve within three weeks of the treatment; otherwise consult your doctor immediately for further evaluation.

Besides treatment, you can adopt some measures to improve the symptoms.

  • Wear cotton and loose-fitting clothing.
  • Use an over-the-counter water-based lubricant.
  • Be sexually active as sexual arousal can cause vaginal lubrication that can treat dryness or burning.