Treating Menopause's Secret Symptom
Don't Ignore Dryness
Seeking Help and Staying Active continued...
"Women can continue to enjoy good sex as they age, and this
common condition is very preventable and treatable," he says.
Bachmann says women can be confused when loss of vaginal
lubrication starts before their periods have stopped. "Many women will
erroneously believe there's something wrong with their relationship or
something that is stressing them in their life," she says.
Early diagnosis and treatment of atrophic vaginitis is
important because the condition often gets worse with time if left
"Sexual activity, particularly intercourse, helps maintain
your ability to lubricate," says Love. "What tends to happen is, if
you're not lubricating and it's a little bit painful, then you stop having sex.
Then sex is more painful, so you start having it less, and it becomes a
self-fulfilling prophecy. Even masturbating is good for increasing the ability
Some Treatment Options
The simplest treatments for any form of vaginal dryness are
lubricants and hydrators, available in any pharmacy. These include water-based
products such as KY Jelly, Astroglide, and Replens, which are more comfortable
to use than oil-based petroleum jelly. And unlike petroleum jelly, they can be
safely used with condoms.
Unfortunately, these lubricants, while helpful, are often not a
complete solution for women with atrophic vaginitis. There weren't enough for
Caroline Scott Brown.
"They were kind of messy," she says. "They did
help, but they didn't totally solve the problem and then an hour later I was
dry again. That's when I started researching [prescription] products and called
For decades, relief has been available in the form of
prescription creams that contain estrogen. They are placed directly in the
vagina and although effective, they can be messy, and the estrogen is absorbed
into the bloodstream. This can be a problem for women taking hormone
replacement therapy because they don't want to increase the amount of female
hormones in the blood even more. It is an even bigger problem for women who
have or have had diseases, such as breast cancer, that thrive in an
Still, for women who don't mind a little extra estrogen in
their systems, these creams are often effective. If you do choose this option,
Love recommends you "use a little dab on your finger ... . Do that every
day for about three weeks and then about three times a week after
And don't use estrogen cream as a lubricant with a male partner
because he can absorb it, too -- and chances are he won't like that.
Recently, a company called Pharmacia has started manufacturing
two new products for atrophic vaginitis that overcome some of the disadvantages
of estrogen creams. One, called Vagifem, is a tiny pill, about the size of a
baby aspirin, that is inserted high into the vagina with an applicator about
the size of a pencil.