This week an inordinate number of women with urogenital issues presented to my clinic. For many years now I have been educating about vaginal health but it is weeks like this that I wonder if I am having any impact at all. Many of these women initially noticed vaginal dryness whether or not they were sexually active. Some of the other urogenital symptoms they have experienced include:
- Leakage of urine
- Thin watery discharge
- Post Coital Bleeding
- Painful Sex
- Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections
Most of these women have endured these symptoms for a number of years without knowing there was treatment and/or being too embarrassed to discuss it with anyone (including their doctor). Or, when they did speak to their doctor about it the response was that this was expected to occur due to aging, or that there were no available treatments. First of all, nothing can be further from the truth. Some of the women were in their thirties, had just delivered a baby, and were breastfeeding!
Vaginal dryness is never normal, leads to decrease in vaginal wall elasticity, and is associated with decreasing estrogen levels during perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause) and menopause. It is not uncommon for a woman to experience vaginal dryness as young as age 31, during breastfeeding, while taking the oral contraceptive pill, or during pelvic radiation/cancer treatment.
Vaginal atrophy occurs in 50% of postmenopausal women. This is when symptoms progress to burning, itching, thin, watery discharge and recurrent urinary tract infections. If you are a post-menopausal woman (no periods for one year) and are getting urinary tract infections then think estrogen, not antibiotics. The post-menopausal vagina is prone to recurrent urinary tractions because of the decreasing estrogen levels.
Vaginal dryness is a very common symptom that may occur at any time in a woman’s life. But don’t worry – there are treatment options available such as RepaGyn® (for moisturization and healing), a hormone-free personal moisturizers available as an ovule that is inserted into the vagina and DrUAqua as another example which is available as a cream.
When the condition advances to Vaginal Atrophy, then low dose localized estrogen therapy may be necessary to restore the vagina to a healthier pre-menopausal state. I cannot help but think that if many of these women were treated initially, then they would not suffer for such a long time with bladder leaks, burning, dryness, itching and – probably worst of all – prolapse, which is when reproductive organs like the bladder or uterus fall down.
Here are my recommendations for your vaginal health:
- The vagina is like a self-cleaning oven: no douches, perfumes or soaps!
- It is just as important to moisturize your vagina as it is your face!
- There are treatment options available (hormonal and non-hormonal) to improve your vaginal health!
Keep these 3 things in mind to help you get back to the bedroom and back to your everyday life!