If you are menopausal and suffering from vaginal dryness, pain or bleeding during or after sex, a burning sensation when you urinate or incontinence you may have vaginal atrophy. But what is it? Vaginal atrophy is the thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal wall caused by a reduction in the levels of oestrogen your body produces with menopause, breastfeeding, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Reduced oestrogen levels result in changes to your body causing some women to experience the following vaginal and urinary symptoms, which get worse with time:
- Vaginal itching, dryness, burning or discharge
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Recurrent urinary tract infections
- Urinary incontinence
- Light bleeding after intercourse or discomfort
- Reduced libido
If you are suffering from one or more of these symptoms you should consult a medical professional for a formal diagnosis. When you book in with Northside Gynaecology we do an extensive questionnaire with examination to establish diagnosis. Our experienced gynaecologists will also check for other conditions that can go with it like prolapse.
Treatments for vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy are many and have varying success rates, however it is important to understand that these symptoms will worsen with time for everyone if not treated.
Lubricants and moisturisers
Lubricants offer immediate, but short-term relief from vaginal dryness and can help with intercourse. You should still consult with your gynaecologist or GP for more effective treatment.
Vaginal moisturisers tend to have a longer-lasting effect than lubricants and usually need to be applied every few days. Water-based moisturisers are best, as oil-based products can irritate the vagina.
The above alleviate symptoms, but don’t treat the condition.
Vaginal oestrogen may be prescribed to increase the level of oestrogen that declines during and after menopause. Vaginal oestrogen is available either as pessaries or creams with equitable results. These can all work equally well, but you may find one type more convenient to use.
They need to be used for a few months at one time to benefit. The result can be variable depending on oestrogen receptors in the vagina, which get depleted with age.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
HRT is a treatment that aims to replace the hormones that start to decline during the menopause and is available as pills, patches, gels, or an implant. HRT may not be an effective treatment for vaginal or bladder symptoms.
Another easy treatment that can be used to treat those who haven’t responded to HRT or even to complement HRT is MonaLisa Touch.
MonaLisa Touch is a minimally-invasive vaginal rejuvenation treatment designed to regenerate the lining of the vaginal wall. It works by splitting a laser beam into a series of very small dots that are aimed at the inside wall of the vagina to stimulate regeneration. New healthy tissue is formed around these areas and the effects last much longer than HRT.
MonaLisa has proven success in removing the contributing factors of dryness, itching and burning and most patients notice improvement by 4-6 weeks and can be assured of long-lasting results. Initially it is recommended that you have a series of three treatments a month apart and 1-2 a year moving forwards to combat the effects of the low hormones that caused the symptoms in the first place.
The great news is that each course of treatment only takes 5 minutes and there is little to no recovery time. The only downside of MonaLisa Touch is that it is not yet available through Medicare or private health insurance, but any woman who suffers from vaginal atrophy will agree the benefits of fighting the symptoms is well worth the cost of treatment.
Women’s health should no longer be a taboo subject, or something that women should learn to live with because ‘that’s just how things are.’ Vaginal atrophy can be managed and the symptoms alleviated with the range of treatments available and should not be suffered in silence.
If you think you might have vaginal atrophy, wish to discuss our treatments or talk to an experience gynaecologist about female health, please get in touch on 1300 780 138. We’re here to help and looking forward to seeing you.