Atrophic vaginitis is when the tissues that line the vagina become thin, dry, and inflamed. It is most common in women who have gone through menopause.
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Atrophic vaginitis happens when there is a lack of estrogen in the body. This hormone helps keep the skin of the vagina healthy and moist.
Low estrogen levels are common after menopause. A woman’s ovaries make the hormone until menopause, which happens at about 52 years of age. After menopause, the vaginal walls become thin and less moist.
Other things that may lower estrogen and raise the risk of this problem are:
- Primary ovarian insufficiency
- The use of hormonal therapies
- Cancer treatments that affect the ovaries
- Eating disorders
- Too much exercise
Some women do not have symptoms of atrophic vaginitis. Others may have:
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal irritation, itching, or burning
- Vaginal pain
- Pain during sex
- Vaginal discharge
- Problems urinating
The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. A pelvic exam may also be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis. Vaginal fluids may be tested to confirm it.
The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms. This can be done with:
- Vaginal moisturizers or lubricants
- Estrogen therapy, such as pills, creams, suppositories, or rings
- Selective estrogen-receptor modulators (SERMs)
Regular sexual activity can also promote vaginal health by improving blood flow.
There are no known methods to prevent atrophic vaginitis.
- Atrophic vaginitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/atrophic-vaginitis.
- Vaginitis. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/vaginitis.
- Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
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