What is vaginal atrophy?

With vaginal atrophy, the tissues of a woman’s vagina no longer work in their normal, healthy way. It happens slowly as the lining of the vagina begins to shrink or thin out. It often occurs in women during the change of life (menopause). This is because women lose the hormone estrogen at that time. Atrophy can also occur in younger women who have a decrease in estrogen. Atrophic vaginitis has also been termed “Genital Syndrome of Menopause.”

What are symptoms of vaginal atrophy?

Symptoms of vaginal atrophy can include:

  • Dryness of the vagina
  • Burning and/or itching of the vagina
  • Pain during sex
  • A discharge from the vagina
  • Spotting or bleeding

It can also affect your urinary system and cause symptoms. These include going to the bathroom often, having pain when going to the bathroom, and getting urinary tract infections (UTIs).

What causes vaginal atrophy?

During menopause, your body makes less estrogen. Without estrogen, the lining of the vagina can become thinner and less stretchy. The vaginal canal can also narrow and shorten. Less estrogen lowers the amount of normal vaginal fluids. It also changes the acid balance of the vagina. Women who have just had a baby and are breastfeeding also have a drop in estrogen. These symptoms also occur in women who have had their ovaries removed or are taking certain medications (such as aromatase inhibitors for breast cancer treatment).

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