Atrophic vaginitis is a common condition affecting majority of the women after menopause. It is a condition characterized by inflammation of the vagina accompanied by dryness and therefore the condition is also known as vaginal dryness. Such a condition arises due to low levels of estrogen, the production of which is significantly reduced once woman reach menopause .
Approximately 50% of women in the menopausal state to develop vaginal dryness . However, breast feeding mothers also complain of vaginal dryness. Simple treatment regimes help in effective management of the condition.
Decrease in the production of estrogen levels causes development of atrophic vaginitis. The following are the various factors that are known to decrease the production of the hormone estrogen:
The condition of atrophic vaginitis is a common one; however not all women in the menopausal stage develop this condition.
It has been estimated that about 20 to 50% of postmenopausal women suffer from atrophic vaginitis. Of these, only 25% seek medical help. The condition is far more common than what has been reported. Women often feel embarrassed and do not report symptoms to their doctor.
The vaginal epithelium is subject to change during various phases of life. At birth the vagina is rich in glycogen due to estrogen supply from the mother. During childhood phase, the epithelium is thin which then thickens during puberty due to increased production of estrogen.
A sufficient supply of this hormone keeps the vagina lubricated and also maintains the pH levels 3.5 – 4.5. Such level helps protect the vagina against bacterial infections. When the pH goes beyond this level, the vagina gets susceptible to urinary tract infections. During early years of menopause and post menopause, the ovaries secrete less of estrogen that causes the vagina to get dry and inflamed.
The prognosis of the condition is favorable if women seek treatment. With hormone replacement therapy and lubricating agents women often experience less discomfort.
Atrophic vaginitis if not treated on time can cause the following complications:
The following are the various signs and symptoms of atrophic vaginitis:
Diagnosis of the condition starts with a medical history of the patient. Medical history would include information regarding medications, past surgical procedures and diseases if any. In addition, the following methods would be employed for diagnosing atrophic vaginitis:
Lubricants and drugs often form the first line of treatment for atrophic vaginitis. The following are various topical agents and lubricants suggested for treating vaginal dryness:
It is advised that women begin applying lubricants and vaginal estrogens to help prevent the condition from turning severe. In addition, sexual activity has also been known to improve the vaginal elasticity and lubrication. Topical treatments in the form of tablets and creams should also be practiced as this increases the vaginal epithelium proliferation.
Atrophic vaginitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the vagina accompanied by dryness and itching. Decrease in estrogen levels gives rise to such a situation. Such condition is more common in women who are in the menopausal stage. Also, women who have undergone surgery to remove the ovaries also develop atrophic vaginitis.
Decrease in the production of estrogen is the major cause that leads to development of atrophic vaginitis. The several factors causing lowered production of estrogen include menopause, cancer treatments, surgical removal of ovaries and lactation.
Symptoms of atrophic vaginitis include vaginal dryness, burning sensation, frequent urination, incontinence, and pain during intercourse, vaginal discharge, bleeding during intercourse, decreased lubrication, urinary tract infections and shortening of the vaginal canal.
A thorough physical examination to study the vagina for signs of inflammation and dryness is carried out. In addition, pelvic examination is done to check for pelvic prolapse. The vagina is also tested to check for its acid base balance. Various laboratory tests are also required for analyzing the levels of serum hormone levels. A decrease in the levels of estrogen confirms atrophic vaginitis.
Treatment of atrophic vaginitis includes application of moisturizing vaginal creams and lubricants to improve the dryness and lubrication. However, estrogen creams would also be required to relieve other symptoms of itching, burning sensation and irritation. These include insertion of estrogen tablets or application of estrogen creams to facilitate a controlled release of estrogen to the organ.