Women who have reached menopause often feel as though they’ve traded one problem for another. Sure, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of menstrual periods and worry about pregnancy anymore. The hot flushes, night sweats, sleep problems, mood swings and vaginal dryness are not much improvement though.
Ask women who have menopause symptoms what their least favorite part is. They will say the hot flushes and sweats at random times of the day and night. They will tell you about the poor sleep and emotional roller-coaster. They often WON’T tell you they have vaginal dryness and intolerable itching and loss of urinary control. They usually won’t tell you they can’t tolerate intercourse with their partner anymore.
A lot of times they don’t tell ME that either. I ask every woman at her physical about these symptoms if she is heading into menopause. Women are embarrassed to discuss those parts of their bodies, even with their doctor.
There was a research study published recently in Menopause that asked women with menopause symptoms specifically about vaginal, vulvar and urinary symptoms. Women who had had no menstrual period for at least a year were asked to fill out a questionnaire, and then had a gynecological exam.
Over 90% of the women were found to have vulvovaginal atrophy. After the ovaries stop making estrogen at menopause, the skin and other tissues around the vagina and urethra become thinner, dryer and more fragile. This is called atrophy and is often responsible for the itching, irritation and pain with sex that many women experience.
Many women know about hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms and often refuse to take it. Not as many women know that there are safer alternatives for vulvovaginal atrophy. I usually recommend women try over-the-counter DHEA cream which they can get at the health food store or online. One of my patients told me she tried Julva cream which she bought online and it helped a lot. (Not an affiliate and I have no personal experience with it, just passing along a report from a happy patient.)
Topical estrogen cream is also very effective and is safe to use even in women who have had estrogen-sensitive breast cancer. This is a prescription and usually requires an exam to make sure the diagnosis is right. Many things other than vulvovaginal atrophy cause itching in pain (including infections and some skin conditions).
If you or a woman you love is suffering with itching, pain and/or urinary symptoms after menopause please don’t suffer in silence. See the doctor and discuss your symptoms so you can get treatment. Treatment works!
QUESTION: Have you had problems with menopausal vaginal symptoms? How has it affected your life?