Treating Menopause's Secret Symptom
Don't Ignore Dryness
Some Treatment Options continued...
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.
"Even women who have developed quite a lot of atrophy, or
even narrowing or shortening of the vaginal canal ... can comfortably use this
tablet because the applicator is so slender," says Kaunitz.
Inside the body, the pill dissolves slowly over a few days to
release small amounts of estrogen. A new pill must be put into place about
twice a week.
More recently, Pharmacia has begun marketing a product called
Estring, which is a ring that is also inserted high into the vagina. It slowly
releases estrogen over about three months, at which time the ring is removed
and discarded and a new one is inserted.