Atrophic Vaginitis

Atrophic Vaginitis

How to Say It: a-TRO-fic va-gin-I-tis

Definition

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.

Vagina

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Causes

This problem happens when there is a lack of estrogen in the body. This hormone helps keep the skin of the vagina healthy and moist.

Risk Factors

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
  • Hyperprolactinemia
  • The use of hormonal therapies
  • Cancer treatments that affect the ovaries
  • Eating disorders
  • Too much exercise
  • Smoking

Symptoms

Some women do not have symptoms. Others may have:

  • Vaginal dryness
  • Vaginal irritation, itching, or burning
  • Vaginal pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Problems urinating

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your 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.

Treatment

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.

Prevention

There are no known methods to prevent this health problem.

RESOURCES:

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org
Office on Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services
http://www.womenshealth.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Canadian Women's Health Network
http://www.cwhn.ca
Women's Health Matters
http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

References:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Practice Bulletin No. 141: management of menopausal symptoms. Obstet Gynecol. 2014 Jan;123(1):202-16, correction can be found in Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Jan;127(1):166.
Atrophic vaginitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/atrophic-vaginitis . Accessed August 4, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 02/24/2021

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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