Is Menopausal Dryness Normal? 

Menopausal dryness is a common symptom of menopause. During menopause, the reproductive hormones in the female body (estrogen and progesterone) begin to decline. These hormones regulate the reproductive system and the menstrual cycle. The hormonal decline causes a variety of symptoms including vaginal dryness. Menopausal dryness can occur in females experiencing premature menopause, breastfeeding, giving birth, or undergoing chemotherapy/radiation treatment. 

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What happens during menopausal dryness? 

Menopausal dryness, also known as vaginal dryness, is not a life-threatening disease. However, the condition can be quite uncomfortable. Estrogen helps the vagina produce a natural lubricant that keeps the area moisturized. People with vaginal dryness can experience pain during intercourse and also while doing simple things like putting on underwear. Vaginal dryness can also accompany other medical issues like urinary tract infections (UTIs). 

Why does vaginal dryness cause UTIs? 

The medical term for vaginal dryness is vaginal atrophy (atrophic vaginitis). Another term used for the condition is genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM). In addition to vaginal dryness, the walls and membranes surrounding the vagina become thinner and the vaginal canal may shrink. Thin vaginal membranes and a lack of moisture make people more susceptible to urinary tract infections. A UTI affects the bladder and urethra, making urination very painful.  

What are the symptoms of vaginal dryness? 

The symptoms of vaginal atrophy can be similar to the symptoms of a UTI. However, the difference is that the symptoms of vaginal dryness are directly linked to a drop in hormone levels. Here are some common vaginal dryness symptoms. 

  • Burning 
  • Itching 
  • Pain during intercourse 
  • Spotting  
  • Yellow vaginal discharge 

These symptoms can be painful to deal with and occur for weeks or months. To diagnose a person with vaginal atrophy, doctors will perform a pelvic exam to check for changes and abnormalities in the vaginal area. Doctors may also conduct an ultrasound and pap test along with serum hormone testing. 

What are the treatment options for vaginal dryness? 

One of the most common treatment options is applying a vaginal lubricant before and during intercourse to moisturize the vagina. Most of these lubricants are over the counter and can be found at local drugstores. Doctors can also recommend topical estrogen medications or hormone treatments. Hormones can be taken orally or inserted into the vagina.  

Another treatment option is a ring that is inserted into the vagina and releases estrogen into the bloodstream. Overall treatment options vary and depend on the patient’s preference and the doctor’s recommendations.  

What is vaginal laser therapy? 

Vaginal laser therapy involves using a laser to repair thinned vaginal walls, stimulate collagen production, and improve elasticity. A carbon dioxide laser is inserted into the vagina to regenerate the vaginal tissues. This vaginal treatment option is relatively new but is offered as an option to those that do not want to undergo extensive estrogen treatments for vaginal atrophy. 

Should I see a doctor for my vaginal dryness? 

Yes, patients should talk to a physician if experiencing any of these symptoms. A physician will be able to test a patient to determine the cause of vaginal atrophy and check for any other issues. Patients will also be able to get treatment options to alleviate vaginal pain and treat or prevent a UTI. Patients can also learn more about advanced treatment options like vaginal laser therapy. 

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