The number of menopausal women in the US is estimated at 64 million, and 32 million of them suffer from vaginal atrophy. The condition is associated with a decrease in estrogen production, primarily after the onset of menopause. Once your menstrual cycles end as you approach the age of 50, menopause sets in, and you are highly susceptible to vaginal atrophy. But, how do you tell if you have this problem?
Here are five main signs to check:
1. Vaginal Dryness
Normally, your vagina is coated with a thin layer of moisture created by vaginal secretions. The secretions provide an alkaline environment for sperms to survive and lubricate the vagina wall during sexual intercourse. However, as you age, the vaginal walls get thin, and they cannot secrete moisture. As a result, you experience vaginal dryness, a condition that causes a lot of discomfort in the pelvic and uterus regions. The condition is mainly characterized by pain when engaging in sex.
2. Discomfort with Intercourse
If you experience painful sex, there is a high probability that you don't have sufficient vaginal lubrication. Apart from physically painful sex, vaginal atrophy may significantly affect you emotionally. For instance, it may reduce your desire for sex. Although the problem is associated with vaginal infections, vaginismus, and problems with the uterus and cervix, you should also consider vaginal atrophy, especially if you are post-menopause.
3. Vaginal Burning
If you experience vaginal irritation, it might be a minor problem. However, if burning and itching persist, it may signify a major gynecological condition that needs treatment. If you have vaginal atrophy, burning worsens after sexual intercourse, mainly on the labia, vaginal opening, and clitoris. In most cases, people associate vaginal itching with normal irritation from soap, detergents, toilet paper, and menstrual pads. However, it should highly concern you if you are over 50 and the burning is severe and persistent. It could be vaginal atrophy.
4. Recurring Urinary Tract Infections
It is estimated that 50-60% of women develop urinary tract infections (UTIs) in their lifetime. In most cases, UTIs are completely treated with common antibiotics. However, a recurring STI may signify a more serious gynecological condition, probably vaginal atrophy. When there is a reduction in vaginal secretions, the alkaline environment within the vagina is altered, providing a good habitat for UTI-causing bacteria and fungi.
5. Genital Itching
Vaginal itching can be caused by an allergic reaction or infection. However, if you are post-menopause, it could be vaginal atrophy. As your vagina gets thinner and drier, the immediate symptom you will experience is severe itching. On most occasions, the itching accompanies other symptoms, mainly pain during sex and burning.
If you suspect vaginal atrophy, urgently visit a gynecologist for diagnosis and treatment. Normally, the initial vaginal atrophy services include the prescription of vaginal moisturizes and water-based lubricants. In some cases, the doctor may recommend topical estrogen.