What is Vaginal Atrophy?
Vaginal atrophy is the thinning and drying of the vaginal walls which can take place as we age. This is a very common condition, also known as Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM) or vulvo-vaginal atrophy (VVA), atrophic vaginitis.
The condition affect up to 30% of women in the UK. Typically occurring most often during or after the menopause. This is when the cells in the vagina are significantly lacking hydration and can coincide with the reduction oestrogen generation . This leads to the drying, thinning and inflammation of the vagina, which can understandably cause a lot of stress, discomfort and may impact intimate relationships.
Vaginal atrophy can occur at almost any age, it is estimated that almost half of post-menopausal women experience vaginal atrophy in some form.
Dr Shirin has been campaigning for this condition to become more talked about in public, so that women can feel confident to seek treatment. Many women believe that the condition is a normal part of the menopause, however this is not the case.
What are the Symptoms of Vaginal Atrophy?
There are a wide range of symptoms associated with vaginal atrophy, varying in intensity from mild, moderate to severe. You may not have all of the symptoms below:
- Vaginal dryness
- Painful intercourse; decreased lubrication during sexual activity
- Bleeding or discomfort after intercourse
- Itching and redness of the genitalia
- Burning sensation in the vagina
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Urgency with urination
- Urinary incontinence
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
- Tightening vaginal canal
- Shortening vaginal canal
- GSM – there is a strong link between the vaginal and urinary symptoms associated with vaginal atrophy, some experts tend to agree that a more suitable term for it is “genitourinary syndrome of menopause” (GSM).
Up to half of all women will not make an appointment to see a specialist when suffering from vaginal atrophy. We encourage all women to seek help and remember that a professional doctor will deal with your concerns discretely and in full confidence. More and more is being learned about various treatment options and there will be a treatment for you so that you do not have to suffer in daily silence.
What Causes Vaginal Atrophy?
Vaginal atrophy is caused by the body’s lack of oestrogen during menopause, causing vaginal tissues to shrink, dry out and thin out. The body produces less oestrogen during menopause, which can lead to thin, dry, and less elastic vaginal tissue, a condition known as vaginal atrophy.
Several triggers can lead to vaginal atrophy. The most common cause is menopause, but other factors such as hormonal changes or use of steroid medications can also result in this condition including:
- Pelvic radiotherapy
- Hormonal cancer treatments
- Removal of both ovaries (surgical menopause)
- Other risk factors include smoking
What Else Can Cause Vaginal Dryness?
Various types of prescribed medication, such as the contraceptive pill or antidepressants, can also cause vaginal dryness. Also, if you are breastfeeding it may lead to lower oestrogen levels and as a result, you may experience vaginal dryness.
Vaginal dryness is not only caused by the menopause. A common cause is not being sexually aroused during foreplay or intercourse. Also using products that upset the pH balance of the vagina such as using scented soaps for your intimate areas can cause further irritation.
Vaginal dryness is a common concern among postmenopausal women, but there are steps you can take to prevent it. Do not use perfumed products in or around your intimate areas, because these products upset the natural pH balance. Use a lubricant during intercourse to prevent vaginal dryness and make sure you spend enough time on foreplay to help your body produce lubricants naturally. Experts recommend that sexually active women who experience vaginal dryness engage in regular sexual activity before, during and after menopause to maintain healthy vaginal tissue.
How is Vaginal Atrophy Diagnosed?
A diagnosis of vaginal atrophy can be made during an exam by a general practitioner or gynecologist. A pH test is conducted to measure the acidity of the vaginal area, which is then compared with normal levels. If atrophic changes are discovered, then a doctor will discuss several treatment options with you.
Can Vaginal Atrophy be Treated?
Several treatment options exist for vaginal dryness (vaginal atrophy), including hormone replacement therapy tablets, topical oestrogen in the form of pessaries, vaginal rings, or vaginal creams, and over-the-counter moisturisers or lubricants. When self-help methods are not effective or symptoms are severe enough to impact day-to-day life, it is wise to visit your GP or gynaecologist. If those methods have not resulted in controlling your symptoms, then consider the O Shot, which uses PRP Stem Cells to regenerate your intimate areas. (As seen on Embarrassing Bodies).
How to Get Help?
The first step to finding out if the treatment is right for you is to book a consultation at our award-winning clinic in Greenhithe, Kent. Here, you will be able to ask any questions, get a detailed explanation of the treatment and its outcomes, as well as get a good understanding of what to expect. Alternatively, drop us an email email@example.com or call us on 01322381205.
We are very easy to find and the clinic is accessible from local stations such as Dartford and Gravesend. We are 15 minutes from Maidstone and a 20-minute drive from London.