Atrophic vaginitis is characterized by redness, itching and dryness of the vagina. Over time there may be narrowing and shrinkage of the vaginal opening and the vagina itself. This problem happens after menopause in up to 75% of all women, and can also happen to some women after childbirth.
Causes of Atrophic Vaginitis
A woman’s ovaries make estrogen until menopause. Before menopause, estrogen in a woman’s bloodstream helps keep the skin of the vagina healthy and stimulates vaginal secretions. After menopause, when the ovaries stop making estrogen, the walls of the vagina become thin, and vaginal secretions are lessened.
Similar changes can happen to some women after childbirth, but in this case these changes are temporary and less severe.
Are You at Risk?
Risk factors for atrophic vaginitis or having more severe symptoms, include:
- Childbirth by cesarean section
- Never having been pregnant
Symptoms of Atrophic Vaginitis
Symptoms can range from minor to severe. They include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal itching or burning
- Vaginal pain
- Problems with sexual intimacy because of painful intercourse
Diagnosing Atrophic Vaginitis
Tests used to diagnose atrophic vaginitis include:
- A test of the acid-base balance (pH balance) of the vagina
- A swabbing of a small part of the vaginal wall — the cells are collected and tested to determine if estrogen is present
Treatment for Atrophic Vaginitis
Treatment options for atrophic vaginitis include:
- Oral estrogen therapy
- Estrogen-containing vaginal creams or vaginal suppositories
Can I Prevent it?
If you are nearing menopause, take the following steps to help reduce your chances of getting atrophic vaginitis:
- Ask your doctor if estrogen therapy is right for you
- Stay sexually active
- Use a vaginal lubricant
- Drink plenty of fluids each day
Do you have atrophic vaginitis?
Make an appointment with your OB or primary care provider — call 434.243.3675.
Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.