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Atrophic vaginitis

  • Definition

    Atrophic vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina due to thinning tissue and decreased lubrication. It is related to reduced estrogen levels.

    For other types and causes of vaginitis, see: Vulvovaginitis


    Alternative Names

    Vaginitis - atrophic; Vaginitis due to reduced estrogen


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Atrophic vaginitis is caused by a decrease in estrogen. Estrogen levels normally drop after menopause.

    Estrogen is very important in keeping the tissues of the vagina lubricated and healthy. Normally, the lining of the vagina makes a clear, lubricating fluid. This fluid makes sexual intercourse more comfortable and helps decrease vaginal irritation.Thinning or shrinking of the vaginal tissue causes dryness and inflammation.

    The following may cause estrogen levels to drop and lead to atrophic vaginitis:

    • Medications or hormones used to decrease estrogen levels in women, as part of the treatment for breast cancer, endometriosis, fibroids, or infertility
    • Radiation treatment to the pelvic area or chemotherapy
    • Severe stress, depression, or rigorous exercise

    Atrophic vaginitis may occur in younger women who have had surgery to remove their ovaries. Some women develop the condition immediately after childbirth or while breastfeeding, since estrogen levels are lower at these times.

    The vagina can also become further irritated from soaps, laundry detergents, lotions, perfumes, or douches. Certain medications, smoking, tampons, and condoms may also cause or worsen vaginal dryness. For more information on these causes of vaginitis, see: vulvovaginitis.