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Preventing Atrophic Vaginitis

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 20 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Menopause Womens Health Vaginitis

With all of the changes occurring during the menopausal transition, you might begin to notice vaginal dryness. This symptom of menopause – along with several others – can lead to a diagnosis of atrophic vaginitis. While some women may transition through menopause without these kinds of symptoms, atrophic vaginitis is a relatively common condition that will be experienced by many women, although the effects on a woman's functioning and lifestyle will vary.

Understanding the Structure and Health of the Vagina

A woman's vagina is generally kept in a supple and moist condition due to several factors. At the neck of the womb, glands generate fluids and mucus to keep the vagina in a healthy state. In women, the hormone oestrogen influences the functioning of these glands and it also affects a woman's tissues both in the vagina and around it. However, after a woman experiences menopause, her ovaries will no longer make as much oestrogen.

In turn, this reduction in oestrogen means that her vaginal tissues will become thinner and there will be fewer glands that make mucus. Also, a certain amount of fat tissue around the vaginal area will be lost, which leads to a somewhat different appearance of the vulva and vagina in comparison with the time prior to menopause. On top of that, a woman's vagina can lose elasticity and become shorter and dryer as well as producing less mucus to lubricate the area. Even the skin around the genitals can appear paler.

The process is not one that occurs overnight. In fact, it tends to occur over years and depends on the individual woman. It is all of these changes that can lead to a diagnosis of atrophic vaginitis. Typically after menopause, one in every two women will show some of the symptoms of atrophic vaginitis. Once women reach their seventies, the figure jumps to seven in ten women.

Symptoms of Atrophic Vaginitis

While all of the changes previously described are signs and symptoms of atrophic vaginitis, there are other symptoms that a woman may notice. For instance, a woman may experience pain during sex, primarily because her vagina is now smaller and drier. In addition, she may become less lubricated during sex. The skin around her vagina may become more easily irritated as well.

Some women also experience general soreness or inflammation to the vulva or vagina. Others will notice discharge and infection. A woman's resistance to vaginal infections becomes reduced after menopause. Itching may also occur, mostly because the vaginal area is now quite sensitive in comparison with the time prior to menopause.

Treating Atrophic Vaginitis to Improve Women's Health

Although it can be very frustrating if you suffer from atrophic vaginitis, there are several treatments to help ease the discomfort and challenges of the condition. Not every treatment will work for all women but your doctor can help you find the right treatment to fit your needs and your specific symptoms and signs of atrophic vaginitis.

One option is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), which requires that you take oestrogen in the form of an oral tablet or through a gel, implant or patches. There are, however, risks associated with HRT. As such, your doctor will examine any risk factors already in place and determine if the treatment is appropriate. There are also oestrogen creams that can help to increase oestrogen to the vagina and nearby areas of the body. In this way, a cream is a more targeted type of treatment.

You can also use lubricating vaginal gels to ease vaginal dryness. For women who only suffer from the dryness aspect, a gel can be the best type of treatment. Most are available over-the-counter and they work to replace moisture in the vaginal tissues.

Moving Beyond Atrophic Vaginitis

Despite the challenges of menopause and women's health, which can include conditions such as atrophic vaginitis – you can successfully treat atrophic vaginitis. This means that you can move forward into postmenopause while keeping your feminine parts healthy and free from discomfort and irritation.

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Lam - 8-Jun-11 @ 8:50 AM
Thank you for the opportunity to have access of info. My last period was May 2010. I am 43. My first visit at the gaene was May 2009 and my last visit was April this year. I have no other visits unless need be. I am still a bit puzzled and as well as find it somehow difficult to accept. Does that also mean i will not at all get pregnant or should continue with contraceptives. I am not sure as my gaene told me it is ok. Your comments please. Thank you
Lam - 7-Jun-11 @ 12:36 PM
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