Vaginal atrophy appears as a set of symptoms and signs associated with the decrease of estrogen and other sex steroids. It is a chronic disease, common during menopause.
Menopause is a physiological and natural process that consists in the definitive cessation of menstruation. This process is associated with a series of changes, some temporary, others definitive in the women's organism
Often, vaginal atrophy is not diagnosed, so it has a great impact on the sexual health of the patient, as well as their quality of life. Decreased levels of estrogen and other hormones are associated with changes in the major and minor lips, introitus, valvular vestibules, clitoris, vagina, urethra and bladder.
Estrogens are necessary to maintain the structure and function of the vagina. The decrease in the levels of these hormones has been associated with changes in the physiology of the vagina, which are the basis of the symptoms that define vaginal atrophy.
Symptoms of vaginal atrophy
With this pathology associated with menopause, patients may suffer from a moderate to acute clinical picture characterized by the presence of the following signs and symptoms:
- Vaginal dryness
- Vador burning
- Genital itching
- Burning sensation when urinating and increase the sensation of it.
- Discomfort during sexual intercourse
- Mild bleeding after having sex.
- Narrowing and shortening of the vaginal canal.
However, vaginal dryness, although it is more frequent in menopause, It is a problem that can affect women at any stage of their lives, for the use of contraceptives, lactation, postpartum, peri and postmenopause. In fact, more than half of the women who suffer from this disorder are less than 50 years old.
Risk factors of vaginal atrophy
Certain factors contribute to the development of vaginal atrophy. Some of them are:
- Smoking: Smoking cigarettes affects the blood circulation, which produces a deficiency of oxygen in the vagina and other tissues. Tobacco also decreases the effects of the body's natural estrogens.
- Not having had natural births: Researchers have deduced that women who have never given birth by vaginal delivery are more likely to have the syndrome than those who have had deliveries.
- Lack of sexual activity: sexual activity, with or without a partner, increases blood circulation and favors the elasticity of the vaginal tissues.
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How can it be treated?
Treatments for vaginal atrophy aim to restore the physiology of this area of the body and alleviate the symptoms. When symptoms are mild, first-line therapies include the use of non-hormonal vaginal moisturizers and lubricants at the time of intercourse to improve vaginal dryness, burning or stinging.
In addition, moisturizers enrich the hydration of collagen in the vagina, providing symptomatic relief, although they do not improve the vaginal epithelium.
In the case in which the patient suffers a moderate-severe picture, treatment with estrogen is recommended. If only vaginal atrophy exists, The therapeutic option of choice is the administration of local estrogens. However, if it coexists with vasomotor symptoms that affect the quality of life, the choice will be systemic hormonal therapy.
Although the prevention of vaginal atrophy in menopause It is very difficult because it is a natural condition of the woman's biological cycle, yes we can attenuate the symptoms as much as possible. The simplest is to start by adopting a healthy lifestyle, eliminating risk factors such as smoking.
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Apart from the measures mentioned above, There are other methods to try to improve this disease as for example the laser treatment.
It is a minimally invasive technique that uses heat to stimulate the production of collagen in the cells of the vaginal area. It replaces the drier layers of the skin with new cells, reorganizes and balances the components of the vaginal mucosa.