What is Atrophic Vaginitis?
Atrophic vaginitis is a common problem in postmenopausal women. It is the result of low estrogen levels in the vagina. Without appropriate levels of estrogen the “good bacteria” (lactobacillus) counts decline sometimes resulting in elevation of bad bacteria. This increases the likelihood of recurrent bladder infections. Lubrication of the vagina dramatically decreases with lower estrogen levels and the lining becomes thin and inflamed. This leads to pain with intercourse. Painful sex is often the leading symptom that prompts women to seek treatment.
Causes of Atrophic Vaginitis
While atrophic vaginitis is most commonly a problem with postmenopausal women it may also occur transiently in breast feeding women. It could also be a significant problem in women with a history of cancer following chemotherapy or pelvic radiation. Both result in potential damage to the ovaries. With declining ovarian function comes declining estrogen levels followed by atrophic vaginitis.
Treatments for Atrophic Vaginitis
Over-the-counter and prescription solutions
Initially women are able to manage with:
- Vaginal moisturizers (Replens or Vagisil)
- Vaginal lubricant (glycerin-free versions of Astroglide, K-Y Intrigue, others)
- Vaginal Ph balancing gels (Refresh, Luvena)
For some women this may be all that is needed.
For many women the problem progresses and requires medical therapy. The most common therapy is local estrogen cream, tablets or an estrogen ring that is placed in the vagina. Local estrogen therapy is highly effective when used continuously and regularly. For those who find the current treatment options ineffective or would like to avoid hormones and drugs; there are new and innovative procedures to combat this problem.
New Procedures for the Treatment of Atrophic Vaginitis
Several fast and painless in-office procedures that rejuvenate vaginal tissue are now available. Using lasers or RF, they provide energy to the vaginal surfaces that result in increased collagen formation and lubrication. In many cases, incidence of urinary incontinence is also improved.
Before a woman is allowed to take part in one of these procedures she must undergo the customary pelvic exam. If everything checks out correctly, the procedures can be performed. Most women report decreased pain with sex, more enjoyable sex, decreased urinary leakage and less frequent bladder infections.
Advanced Non-Surgical Treatments
Many women find that the combination of therapies improves vaginal lubrication and sensation. This is especially true in post-menopausal women who have experienced vaginal atrophy and cannot use or do not want to use hormones. For the woman suffering from this condition following menopause, radiation or chemotherapy, these procedures can be a life line. To learn more contact us at Minnesota Women’s Care 651-600-3035.