If you're a woman who has already passed into menopause, you may be coping with some unexpected problems. People seldom talk about these kinds of things, but it isn't uncommon for "women of a certain age" to experience a thinning of their vaginal walls. This can lead to vaginal dryness as well as pain and discomfort during intimacy. It can also make you more prone to urinary tract infections and other complications that put your general health at risk.
How Do You Know if You Have Vaginal Atrophy?
Vaginal atrophy is usually diagnosed by a gynecologist or other healthcare provider. The doctor will typically perform a pelvic exam and may also take a sample of vaginal fluid to check for any signs of infection. In some cases, the doctor may also order a blood test to check for hormone imbalances, such as with your estrogen.
If the diagnosis is vaginal atrophy, there are several treatment options available, including:
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Hormone replacement therapy involves taking estrogen in pill form to help restore the vaginal tissue. This essentially tricks your body into behaving as if you were younger. However, HRT is not suitable for everyone and may have unwanted side effects, like high blood pressure or an increased risk of a stroke.
Vaginal Moisturizers and Lubricants
Vaginal moisturizers and lubricants can help provide temporary relief from vaginal dryness. These products can be used only before sex or daily to help alleviate your general discomfort.
Vaginal estrogen is a cream or tablet that is applied directly to the vagina. This can help to restore vaginal tissue and relieve symptoms of vaginal atrophy.
Making certain lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet, can help alleviate symptoms of vaginal atrophy.
In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to restore vaginal tissue, particularly if the problem is making you prone to chronic infections. This is typically done in cases where other treatments have failed.
Managing Chronic Conditions
Certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes, can increase the risk of vaginal atrophy, so managing these conditions through medication and lifestyle changes can also help reduce the problem.
With the right diagnosis and treatment by their gynecology physician, women can effectively manage the symptoms of vaginal atrophy and maintain a healthy and comfortable sex life well into their 60s, 70s, and beyond. It's important to talk to your doctor about the best treatment options for you, as well as any potential risks and side effects associated with each treatment.
Contact a local gynecology physician to learn more.