Vaginal atrophy is extreme dryness in the vaginal tissues. It can occur before or after menopause and cause severe pain and anxiety. Sometimes referred to as vulvovaginal atrophy (VVA), it comes from a severe drop in the essential female hormone estrogen. Estrogen helps regulate many important bodily functions, and one of them is vaginal moisturizers. The good news is that you can help reverse vaginal atrophy, and here's how.
Since vaginal atrophy mainly comes from plummeting levels of estrogen, reversing vaginal atrophy means increasing estrogen levels. The simplest and most effective method is a topical estrogen cream.
Transdermal or topical estrogen creams can be applied directly to the skin or vagina to alleviate symptoms fast. Estrogen creams also usually contain a small amount of progesterone, the other important female hormone.
Once applied to the skin, the estrogen flows through the skin, into the bloodstream, and helps estrogen levels rise throughout the body.
You can also take an oral estrogen pill to increase levels, or insert and estrogen-releasing ring into the vagina. The ring remains in the vagina and releases hormones in response to changes.
Changing your diet to one full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins may help balance hormones. Certain foods may naturally boost estrogen, including:
Research into how well these foods increase estrogen levels vary, but they certainly are healthy and may make you feel better on the whole while eliminating vaginal atrophy.
Lubrication issues from vaginal atrophy make sexual intercourse painful. It may even make tampon insertion unbearable or a gynecological exam impossible. Using a water-based lubricant to flush the vaginal tissues with rejuvenation is a way to reverse vaginal dryness.
Right before engaging in sexual activity, apply a liberal amount to combat atrophy. Sexual intercourse also brings fresh, oxygenated blood to the vaginal walls to increase moisture and keep tissues healthy and strong.
Women with certain conditions, such as dyspareunia or vaginismus, may develop vaginal atrophy. A standard solution given by pelvic floor therapists is to use vaginal dilators or wands. They resemble a sex toy but are medical devices that naturally stretch the vaginal tissues and bring natural moisturizer to the walls, alleviating dryness.
Vaginal atrophy is terrible dryness, but this isn't the only symptom that comes with this condition. When you have VVA, you not only lack natural moisturizer, but you may also have one or more of the following symptoms.
Vaginal atrophy may also accompany urinary tract problems, known as genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM). Urinary problems may result in stinging and burning while peeing, feeling the desire to urinate often, and dripping urine when you laugh hard, cough, or sneeze.
GSM can begin at different times, and one of them is during perimenopause. Perimenopause is the first stage of menopause and can last a few years, resulting in GSM and VVA. Both can make sexual intercourse painful.
One solution to alleviate vaginal dryness is to use lubricants and moisturizers to mitigate symptoms. If this doesn't work, estrogen hormone therapy may lessen the dryness, burning, and itching.
The leading cause of vaginal atrophy for women is a serious drop in estrogen. Most of the time, this occurs before, during, and after menopause.
Menopause is a transitional period in a woman's life when her body makes the change from being able to bear children to becoming infertile. It's a normal process that all women go through, but what they don't tell you about menopause is that it can last years as you make the transition. Women experience menopausal symptoms in various strengths, but usually include one or more of the following:
The female sex hormone estrogen regulates many bodily processes and is present in both men and women; although, men produce estrogen in smaller quantities. Women produce estrogen primarily in their ovaries and adrenal glands. When levels plummet suddenly due to menopause, the body needs to adapt to this abrupt change, causing a slew of uncomfortable to painful symptoms.
Surgical menopause or oophorectomy is the removal of ovaries, which generates estrogen. The almond-shaped organs sit on either side of the uterus and contain eggs and hormones responsible for regulating women's monthly cycle. The reasons for the removal include:
Estrogen levels go up and down depending on different factors. For example, estrogen rises when the ovaries produce an egg for possible fertilization and remain high during pregnancy; however, after giving birth, estrogen and progesterone decrease to allow prolactin production. Prolactin is a hormone the body needs to prepare the breasts to produce milk.
Once the baby is born and the uterus is shed, estrogen and progesterone decrease, and prolactin increases for mature breast milk. Prolactin helps the body produce milk for breastfeeding. While necessary for milk production, a drop in estrogen may cause vaginal atrophy.
Menopause is a typical cause of vaginal atrophy, but there may be other reasons for the chronic vaginal dryness, including;
Regardless of why women suffer from vaginal atrophy, it can be reversed. Plummeting estrogen levels from menopause or other medical concerns result in thinning and dry vaginal tissues that make daily life uncomfortable. Increasing the natural estrogen in your body through diet, lubricants, or estrogen creams helps reverse atrophy. It's possible to enjoy a normal life again.