Ageing and menopause bring changes to every woman’s body. These can range from relatively minor to extremely troublesome. Vulvovaginal atrophy belongs to one of those that are very uncomfortable. What it actually is? Who is usually affected? And are you the one at risk?
What is vulvovaginal atrophy?
Atrophy means thinning of the mucosa. In this case it is the vaginal mucosa that gradually thins. This can cause the vagina to be very vulnerable, painful during urination or can even lead to incontinence (i.e. involuntary leakage of urine). All of these make vulvovaginal atrophy a very uncomfortable condition. It is a consequence of gradual decrease in the levels of estrogen, female sex hormone, produced in ovaries up until the menopause.
Why is estrogen so important for women?
Estrogen contributes to nutrition, elasticity and immunity of vaginal mucosa, as well as stimulation of vaginal secretion and good functioning of pelvic floor and urinary tract. It may seem trivial but its deficiency can lead to a number of problems.
Low levels of estrogen leads to thinning of vaginal mucosa, women can notice dryness, itching or changes in natural lubrication of vagina, mechanical abrasions can even lead to bleeding and painful sexual intercourse. Changes also affect the vaginal microbiome which can in turn lead to more frequent vaginal and urinary infections.
Vaginal atrophy affects every other woman
Vaginal atrophy affects more than 50% of women after menopause. You can also be one of the less lucky ones. It is not influenced by lifestyle during your life.
The fact is that only half of those affected seek professional help. This is often caused by embarrassment or resigning, which is not only unnecessary but also potentially dangerous. Women usually accept the condition as part of ageing and do not want to pay any more attention to it. This can only lead to negative effects on sexual life, mental condition and overall quality of your life!
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Incontinence can disrupt your whole life!
Many women affected by incontinence think that there is nothing that can be done. They also often think that they can resolve these issues with pelvic floor exercises. But longterm exercise does not always bring those sweet results.
So remember that only carefully planned therapy can prevent irreversible changes. If you neglect the signs, the incontinence can become irreversible!
You too can be affected by a disease!
This condition is not only a problem of post-menopausal women. Younger women, especially the ones after delivery or undergoing antiestrogen therapy for oncological reasons can be at risk. In these cases it is usually a temporary condition without the need for specific treatment.
Don’t worry and get rid of your problems!
As a rule of thumb – don’t be embarrassed for your problems and don’t be afraid to talk about them at least with your gynaecologist.
Because the fact is that treatment is very simple. After your doctor determines the correct diagnosis, you will be prescribed a topic, low-dose estrogen therapy, often in the form of cream, tablets or suppositories. These are applied directly into your vagina.
Even though the treatment takes some time, the results are worth it!
Be patient before the first visible results arrive. Research shows improvement in only 62% of patients after a 12 week treatment. Sometimes it can take almost a year before noticing improvement in urination and vaginal mucosa quality. Think of it as a marathon but with apparent results and with minimum of side effects.
So if you’ve already gone through menopause and are experiencing incontinence with more vaginal symptoms, don’t wait and visit your gynaecologist. You will improve the quality of your life and you’ll avoid the problems with urinating, painful sexual intercourse and urinary infections.