Estrogen is the primary female hormone, a messenger that directs many functions in your body, including the reproductive system. Menopause occurs when your ovaries dramatically slow the production of natural estrogen, representing the end of the reproductive stage of your life.
Decreased levels of this hormone can affect your genitals and urinary system, changing the nature and function of surrounding tissue.
At Southeast Urogyn, our board-certified urogynecologists, Robert Harris, MD, and Steven Speights, MD, are vaginal atrophy specialists. They offer a range of treatments, depending on your symptoms. While symptoms and intensities vary from woman to woman, there are several common symptoms.
Reasons for vaginal atrophy
Estrogen loss affects the tissue of the vagina and surrounding area. It becomes thinner, drier, and more fragile with less elasticity.
The decrease in estrogen levels is often due to menopause, but you may experience drops while breastfeeding, with other ovary conditions, or from a range of cancer treatments. Surgical removal of the ovaries can also start vaginal atrophy.
6 symptoms of vaginal atrophy
While every woman’s experience with menopause or low estrogen levels can be unique, there are common conditions that frequently arise. You may experience some, none, or all these symptoms, and intensities can vary from light to heavy.
Six of the most common symptoms are:
- Vaginal dryness, including itching and burning sensations
- Shortening and tightening of the vaginal canal
- Painful intercourse, medically called dyspareunia
- Light bleeding after intercourse
- Vaginal discharge
- Urgent or burning urination
You may also notice changes in your sexual arousal and your body’s response to it. Since both your vagina and urinary tract can suffer the effects of low estrogen, the condition is sometimes called the genitourinary syndrome of menopause.
Treatments that help
The best treatment for you is the most conservative method that relieves the symptoms you’re experiencing. In some cases, more frequent sex can stimulate blood flow that helps refresh vaginal tissue.
Lubricants and vaginal moisturizers are often enough for patients with mild symptoms. There are plenty of over-the-counter solutions available, so you can experiment discreetly. If these aren’t enough to relieve your symptoms, we may prescribe some form of estrogen hormone therapy.
We usually recommend estrogen in cream, ring, or suppository form first for mild and intermediate symptoms. Different forms of hormone replacement therapy can help when you have other menopause symptoms as well as genitourinary issues.
Women who have suffered from breast cancer have a higher risk of recurrence when using hormone replacement therapy.
CO2 laser treatments to stimulate collagen growth in your vagina can reduce a range of vaginal atrophy symptoms with a short and simple, minimally invasive session that requires no downtime while producing long-lasting effects.
Find out more about controlling the symptoms of vaginal atrophy by contacting us at Southeast Urogyn in Madison and Flowood, Mississippi. You can request a consultation by phone or online. Make an appointment today.