Vulvar-Vaginal Atrophy and Dyspareunia – What Your Mom Never Told You

Written by - Reviewed by Consumer Health Digest Team

Published: Jun 10, 2015 | Last Updated: Jan 10, 2019

Vulvo-Vaginal Atrophy and Dyspareunia

Post menopause symptoms includes Vulvar-Vaginal Atrophy and Dyspareunia, which affects women’s health adversely. It’ll go away. This, too, shall pass. It’s just part of aging. How many times have you said these things to yourself as you tweaked a muscle or sprained something, yet again, during your morning workout?

Probably about a hundred times.

It’s just a fact that as we age, our bodies change. For the most part, we know what to expect–a grey hair or two, a couple of wrinkles, a few extra pounds. We’ve watched our parent’s age, and we’ve seen them deal with not being able to do everything they used to do when they were younger. We expect to go through the same things. No surprise there.

Some changes we experience as we age, however, somehow manage to throw us for a loop. For women, the most disturbing change comes with “the change,” and it’s called dyspareunia (dis-pah-ROO-nee-uh), otherwise known as painful sex. (Funny, the birds-and-bees speech never touched on that subject).

What Mom Never Told You

During the first year of menopause, the urogenital area transforms from a moist, elastic environment to a drier, less elastic one. The vaginal walls lose their ridges, and the vagina itself becomes shortened and narrow. A surefire recipe for painful sex.

Menopause info

Taken together, the symptoms, including dyspareunia, compose a condition called Vulvar-vaginal Atrophy or VVA, sometimes just called “vaginal atrophy.” Every day, 6,000 women are at risk, so says Murray A. Freedman, MS, MD, clinical professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Regents University. That’s because 6,000 women a day enter menopause.

It Won’t Go Away

VVA, and especially dyspareunia, is not like other conditions of aging that will go away given enough time. No. VVA must be treated.

The problem is, says Michael Krychman, MD, executive director of Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine in Newport Beach, California, most women won’t get treatment because either they or their doctors are too shy to talk about the condition and its symptoms. “Only 25 percent of symptomatic women,” he says, “will seek help, and studies show that 77 percent of those are uncomfortable discussing ‘personal’ symptoms with their health care providers.”

It Can Go Away

There is help for women with VVA and dyspareunia, if they will only speak up at the doctor’ office and make their doctors talk with them about their symptoms. Treatments, which are tailored to each patient, include a variety of options including use of a water-based lubricant and vaginal moisturizer or use of a topical estrogen crème.

Estrogen plays an essential role in the maintenance of genital health and elasticity,” says Dr. Krychman. It increases blood flow and secretions and helps maintain the correct acidic pH.

Estrogen pills, or hormone therapy, is another route many women take, but this type of therapy is not usually recommended to those who are at high risk for cancer.

The latest treatment approved by the FDA is laser therapy. With this, an intra-vaginal laser is used to stimulate collagen production to help prevent painful sex. The laser helps restore vaginal mucosa and promotes multiplication of epithelial cells lost in menopause. Treatments take only 10 minutes and are given over the course of 12 weeks. No anesthesia is used, and a dermatologist is usually the treating doctor.

Break the Silence

Vulvar-Vaginal Atrophy and Dyspareunia are conditions that occur in most women after menopause.
If you are one of the 6,000 women at risk today, or if you suffer from VVA or dyspareunia, call your gynecologist, make an appointment, and get treatment. There is no need to suffer in silence.

For additional information on VVA and dyspareunia, visit VVA Voices at VVAvocies.com, The International Menopause Society at IMsociety.org, or The North American Menopause Society at Menopause.org.

Read Also: Your Guide To Stages Of Menopause

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