Next week I have been invited to be on CJSR FM 88 in Edmonton to talk about “female Viagra,” the new medication for low female sexual desire that stands to be approved by the FDA in the US in August. The show will focus on low sexual desire in women; however, the host mentioned that she will also have a female guest on the show who will be discussing menopause.
I inquired as to whether or not this woman was an expert or a woman experiencing menopausal symptoms. It was the latter. To that end, I think it is important to discuss one of the conditions of perimenopause/menopause that does not go away unless treated (unlike hot flashes and night sweats) – vaginal dryness/atrophy.
Vaginal Dryness & Vaginal Atrophy
Vaginal atrophy is a common condition that many women in perimenopause and/or menopause experience and women in their late thirties/early forties may notice that sex has become painful. Vaginal dryness is the hallmark symptom of vaginal atrophy. Many women will only experience vaginal dryness and this is easily treated or managed with hormone-free, over the counter, personal moisturizers such as:
- RepaGyn® (vaginal ovule)
- Gynatrof (vaginal cream)
Although vaginal dryness may be the initial symptom, this may progress to vaginal atrophy if left untreated. This diagnosis may be derived from a woman experiencing some of the following symptoms:
- Post-coital bleeding
- Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections
- Thin watery, vaginal discharge
- Pale, thin vaginal tissues
Taboo or not, seek help for your vaginal health!
Women tend not to pay much attention to their vaginal health unless it is bothersome. It reminds me of a line from Joni Mitchell’s infamous song Big Yellow Taxi, “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone,” because anything to do with vaginal health or sexual health is still very much considered a taboo subject.
But you can see from the symptom checklist above that vaginal atrophy will impact a woman’s quality of life and in my clinical practice I have seen many relationships end because of it. Women are embarrassed, ashamed and, above all else, do not know what to do.
Treatment of vaginal atrophy (often times the progression from vaginal dryness) may require low dose localized estrogen therapy (LET) in the form of a tablet, cream, or a ring. The LET is essentially a more potent topical moisturizer and does not cross into the bloodstream. The only side effect one may experience is yeast infection if the estrogen levels are too high in the vagina. The dose can be titrated to prevent this easily enough.
If vaginal dryness or vaginal atrophy has impacted your health or relationship, maybe it is time for treatment so you can get back to your everyday life and even back to the bedroom.