For almost 40 percent of postmenopausal women, the loss of estrogen that they experience during the menopausal transition can lead to vaginal atrophy. This loss leads to thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal walls. Vaginal atrophy can lead to sexual dysfunction and overall quality of life. Additionally, vaginal atrophy also may be tied to decreased urinary tract function
Vaginal atrophy is linked to sexual dysfunction disorders. In fact, women who have vaginal atrophy are almost four times as likely to experience this type of disorder. This atrophy may emerge during perimenopause or several years after the woman’s final period. The issues that emerge with vaginal atrophy – such as pain – often lead women to have less interest in intercourse, a decrease in sexual activities and avoidance of intimacy.
Symptoms of sexual dysfunction include the following:
- Limited vaginal lubrication
- Inability to become aroused
- Difficulty relaxing the vaginal muscles enough to be able to have intercourse
- Pain with intercourse
- Difficulty achieving orgasm
Not surprisingly based on all of these symptoms, many women lose interest in as well as desire for having intercourse.
Deterioration in Urinary Tract Health
The deterioration of a menopausal woman’s vagina also may be tied to the atrophy of the urinary tract due to urogenital atrophy. This type of atrophy is caused both by the decreased levels of estrogen as well as the challenges that age places on a woman’s pelvic area organs and tissues. Women who suffer from this type of atrophy may find they need to urinate more often, suffer incontinence, have dryness and itching in the vagina, and are prone to increased urinary tract infections.
Lower Overall Quality of Life
Vaginal atrophy also may compromise a woman’s overall quality of life. For instance, this type of atrophy may lead to discomfort when a woman is sitting and exercising, thus causing emotional distress and diminished quality of life. Women who experience vaginal atrophy also may avoid having pelvic examinations due to their concerns about the potential for discomfort.
This situation may be compounded because women often are conditioned not to discuss vaginal atrophy due to embarrassment, cultural norms, religious taboos and a belief that this condition is unavoidable and part of aging.
However, talking to your doctor is really important because treatment is available. This video provides a thought-provoking (and comic) look at talking with your doctor:Common treatments for this condition include over-the-counter options such as a vaginal moisturizer and water-based lubricant or other options, such as topical vaginal estrogen or oral estrogen. Low-dose estrogen and hormonetherapy replacement also are options for more difficult cases._ Other Shareposts You Might Enjoy:_ _[Lower Estrogen Levels May Change Women's Response to Stress](http://www.healthcentral.com/menopause/c/727598/161903/estrogen-levels-response/#sthash.ocCT5Tws.dpuf "Lower Estrogen Levels May Change Women's Response to Stress") _ _[Vaginal Estrogen Can Help Fight UTIs](http://www.healthcentral.com/menopause/c/727598/161593/vaginal-estrogen-fight/ "Vaginal Estrogen Can Help Fight UTIs")_ _[Report: HRT Safest When Taken for Shortest Duration During Middle Age](http://www.healthcentral.com/menopause/c/727598/163879/report-shortest-duration/#sthash.sdeHIyb0.dpuf "Report: HRT Safest When Taken for Shortest Duration During Middle Age")_ _[Health Magazine Article Provides Excellent Overview, Advice About Hormones, HRT](http://tools.choicemedia.com/shareposts/admin/:%20http:/www.healthcentral.com/menopause/c/727598/101793/excellent-hrt/#sthash.6HmUQgyR.dpuf "Health Magazine Article Provides Excellent Overview, Advice About Hormones, HRT")_
Primary Source for This Sharepost:
Cleveland Clinic. (2015). An Overview of Sexual Dysfunction.
Krychman, M. (2010). Impact of Vaginal Atrophy on Quality of Life and Sexuality. OBG Management.
Mayo Clinic. (2013). Vaginal Atrophy.
University of Colorado Urogynecology. (ND). Menopause & Urinary Symptoms.
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.