Often, sex changes with age. Your evolving sense of self, your relationships, and your overall lifestyle can all deeply affect your desire and your comfort level. But there are also significant biological changes that can seriously impact your ability to enjoy sex—and, for many women, the greatest and most distressing of those is vaginal atrophy.
Vaginal atrophy is more than just an inconvenience or an inevitable part of aging. When its symptoms get in the way of your daily life, your mood, your self-esteem, your relationships, and your hopes for the future can all feel the impact. But you are not without options. By consulting a hormone health specialist, you can find the right treatment for vaginal atrophy and restore your quality of life.
Understanding the Cause of Vaginal Atrophy
Estrogen hormones play a critical role in your development as a woman, and that role changes over time. While these changes are often to be expected, hormonal fluctuations can still be unsettling and sometimes bring on distressing side effects. When estrogen levels drop with menopause—whether it progresses naturally due to age, is caused by ovarian dysfunction, or is surgically induced via hysterectomy—women may experience symptoms that include hot flashes, disordered mood, decreased sex drive, insomnia, incontinence, more frequent urinary tract infections and yeast infections.
One of the most common symptoms, however, is the thinning of the vaginal walls, also known as vaginal atrophy. Researchers estimate that roughly half of postmenopausal women experience vulvar and vaginal atrophy (VVA), which is marked by vaginal dryness, decreased elasticity, and diminished muscle tone. These conditions can lead to irritation, itching, and pain in the vagina itself as well as problems with urination, such as burning, feelings of urgency, heightened frequency, incontinence, and persistent urinary tract infections. But, often, the most troubling effect is discomfort during sex; the dryness, increased friction, and lack of flexibility that come with vaginal atrophy can make sex unpleasant or even painful. Some women also experience bleeding during or after sexual activity, which can exacerbate their concerns.
Because vaginal atrophy affects women’s sexual relationships and their sense of self, it can be both physically and emotionally arduous. As such, finding effective treatment for vaginal atrophy is key to protecting your overall health and sense of well-being.
Getting the Best Treatment for Vaginal Atrophy
If you are experiencing vaginal atrophy, your best path forward is one of self-compassion and action. When you can accept the symptoms as your body’s request for care, you can respond with effective healing options. It may be a challenge for some women to open up about their experiences with vaginal atrophy, but an experienced practitioner will understand your concerns and help you understand the possibilities of treatment.
Without treatment, vaginal atrophy is unlikely to improve—and it may get worse. While vaginal lubricants and moisturizers can temporarily address discomfort, they do not provide durable, consistent relief. Indeed, vaginal atrophy is a chronic condition that requires a generalized, long-term solution. For many, using hormone replacement therapy to compensate for diminished estrogen levels is that solution.
Evidence consistently shows that estrogen therapy can relieve uncomfortable menopause symptoms, including vaginal atrophy. In fact, it is remarkably effective for this purpose; according to a 2018 paper in the International Journal of Women’s Health, “studies have shown that systemic HRT eliminates the symptoms of vaginal atrophy in 75% of cases, while local therapy does so in 80-90% of cases.” This data should be highly encouraging for any woman struggling with estrogen-related vaginal discomfort—not only is treatment available, but that treatment is nearly universally successful.
The Next Steps Toward Healing
Vaginal atrophy can be deeply disruptive to your sense of self and your ability to experience intimacy. By getting help, you can take a significant step toward healing—and the earlier you reach out for support, the better your overall health outcomes are likely to be.
When you decide to explore your treatment options, an expert hormone practitioner can provide you with the guidance you need to move forward with confidence. After gaining a full understanding of your symptoms and health history, they can help you determine whether hormone replacement therapy is right for you and create a personalized treatment plan tailored to your needs. While hormone replacement therapy may be the centerpiece of treatment, healthy physical activity and supportive nutrition can also help with overall wellness during this transformative stage of life. With the right strategies, you can not only address vaginal atrophy, but revitalize your mood, your energy, and your relationships.
If you want to learn more about treatment for vaginal atrophy, BodyLogicMD can help. The BodyLogicMD network is comprised of compassionate practitioners who are experts in hormone health and will work with you to develop a treatment plan that makes sense for you. Contact a local practitioner to schedule your first appointment, or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz today.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.