Treating Menopause's Secret Symptom
Don't Ignore Dryness
'Not an Automatic Thing'
Atrophic vaginitis occurs to a certain degree in all women as
they age and their estrogen declines. Even women taking hormone replacement
therapy are not immune because it is not always enough estrogen to keep things
And fortunately, not everyone will have the most troubling
symptoms, which can have a major impact on quality of life, especially sex
"It's not an automatic thing," says Susan Love, MD, who
specializes in women's health and is the author of many books on the topic,
including Dr. Susan Love's Hormone Book. "In studies, only about
10%-20% of all women will get vaginal dryness [after menopause]. There are
Seeking Help and Staying Active
But for those women who are affected, many are embarrassed to
discuss vaginal discomfort with their physician. Others feel that uncomfortable
sex is a natural and unavoidable aspect of getting older. But nothing could be
further from the truth, says Kaunitz.
"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.