It May Become More Prone To Utis
Lower estrogen levels dont just cause your vaginal lining to become thinner and drierthey can also cause the lining of your urinary tract to lose volume, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists . This can result in vaginal and urinary tract infections and more frequent urination.
The good news is there are a number of treatments for these, issues including vaginal moisturizers and lubricants; local estrogen therapy ; systemic estrogen therapy ; and selective estrogen receptor modulators , which stimulate estrogen-responsive tissues.
Vaginal Dryness And Menopause
Vaginal dryness is one of the most common symptoms of the menopause and perhaps arguably the most uncomfortable. It can be caused by changing hormone levels during the menopause, making the vaginal walls more sensitive and irritable. In this page, our menopause expert Eileen Durward delves deeper into the causes behind vaginal dryness and how it can be treated using natural remedies.;
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What Are Hot Flashes And How Long Will I Have Them
Hot flashes are one of the most frequent symptoms of menopause. It is a brief sensation of heat. Hot flashes arent the same for everyone and theres no definitive reason that they happen. Aside from the heat, hot flashes can also come with:
- A red, flushed face.
- A chilled feeling after the heat.
Hot flashes not only feel different for each person they also can last for various amounts of time. Some women only have hot flashes for a short period of time during menopause. Others can have some kind of hot flash for the rest of their life. Typically, hot flashes are less severe as time goes on.
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How To Treat Vaginal Dryness In Menopause
“My vagina is as dry as the Sahara desert!” was written in all block letters by a recent patient on the top of their;paperwork as their;chief complaint. I chuckled as I entered the room, but luckily was able to offer them;a variety of treatment options.
Most women know that menopause often causes women to experience their “own person summers” with hot flashes and night sweats, but another common symptom is vaginal dryness, which can mean painful and less enjoyable sex.
The vaginal walls contain an abundance of estrogen receptors. When estrogen level plummet during menopause vaginal walls that were once elastic, expandable, supple, and sturdy can, over time, become tightened and fragile. The skin can become as thin as tissue paper, unable to withstand the manipulation that occurs with sexual activity, and can tear and even bleed with intercourse.
Use it or lose it
When sex becomes painful, the natural response is to begin to avoid intercourse. But without continued sexual activity , the vagina becomes even smaller and tighter, making a bad problem even worse. Add in a partner with erectile dysfunction and its not unusual for a woman to present to me not having had sex in a year or more, wondering if theres anything that can be done to get back the sex life they once enjoyed.
Fortunately, the answer is almost always a resounding Yes!
Vaginal Hormonal Treatment
Vaginal estrogen therapy
It Could Take On A New Odor
During menopause, many women notice a smelly, watery vaginal discharge, which is caused by a change of pH in the vagina, says Dr. Klepchukova. The pH of the vagina becomes less acidic, which is a result of declining estrogen levels.
Dr. Klepchukova notes that this is a normal symptom of menopause, but if youre concerned, talk to your gynecologist.
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What Is Hormone Therapy
During menopause, your body goes through major hormonal changes, decreasing the amount of hormones it makes particularly estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone are produced by the ovaries. When your ovaries no longer make enough estrogen and progesterone, hormone therapy can be used as a supplement. Hormone therapy boosts your hormone levels and can help relieve some symptoms of menopause. Its also used as a preventative measure for osteoporosis.
There are two main types of hormone therapy:
- Estrogen therapy : In this treatment, estrogen is taken alone. Its typically prescribed in a low dose and can be taken as a pill or patch. ET can also be given to you as a cream, vaginal ring, gel or spray. This type of treatment is used after a hysterectomy. Estrogen alone cant be used if a woman still has a uterus.
- Estrogen Progesterone/Progestin Hormone Therapy : This treatment is also called combination therapy because it uses doses of estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone is available in its natural form, or also as a progestin . This type of hormone therapy is used if you still have your uterus.
Hormone therapy can relieve many of the symptoms of menopause, including:
- Hot flashes and night sweats.
- Vaginal dryness.
There May Be Symptoms Besides Vaginal Irritation Or Painful Sex
Dryness isnt always just inside the vaginal canal. Less estrogen means less natural vaginal moisture. This can dry and irritate the vulva, the external female genital area. Women with vulvar dryness often noticeirritation when theyre putting on their underwear.
Some women also have increased urinary frequency;or repeated urinary tract infections; along with vaginal dryness. When this group of symptoms happens during menopause, ob-gyns call it genitourinary syndrome of menopause.
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Do I Still Have To Worry About Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Yes. Menopause and postmenopause don’t protect you against STDs. You can get an STD at any point in your life during which you’re sexually active. This risk doesn’t go down with age or with changes in your reproductive system.
How Long Does Perimenopause Last
The length of each stage of the menopause transition can vary for each individual. The average length of perimenopause is about four years. Some women may only be in this stage for a few months, while others will be in this transition phase for more than four years. If you have gone more than 12 months without having a period, you are no longer perimenopausal. However, if there are medications or medical conditions that may affect periods, it can be more difficult to know the specific stage of the menopause transition.
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How Is Menopause Diagnosed
There are several ways your healthcare provider can diagnose menopause. The first is discussing your menstrual cycle over the last year. If you have gone a full year without a period, you may be postmenopausal. Another way your provider can check if you are going through menopause is a blood test that checks your follicle stimulating hormone level. FSH is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland this gland is located at the base of your brain. However, this test can be misleading during the beginning of menopause when your body is transitioning and your hormone levels are fluctuating up and down. Hormone testing always need to be interpreted in the context of what is happening with the menstrual period.
For many women, a blood test is not necessary. If you are having the symptoms of menopause and your periods have been irregular, talk to your healthcare provider. Your provider may be able to diagnose menopause after your conversation.
What Can I Expect If Ive Been Diagnosed With Vaginal Atrophy
You dont have to just live with vaginal atrophy. Even if youre in menopause or postmenopausal, that doesnt mean you should have to deal with UTIs, endure itching or burning, or painful sex. Treatment not only helps with symptoms, but it helps restore a healthy pH and bacterial balance back to your vagina.
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What Are The Treatment Options
One of the best ways to keep pain with sex from happening is to have more sex. Regular sexual activity can bump up blood flow and moisture to your vagina. To help make intimacy more comfortable, your doctor will likely offer you a step-by-step approach. Theyâll usually start with the easiest option and go from there.
Your treatment may include:
- Lubricants to use during sex
- Vaginal moisturizers
If muscle or vaginal tightness causes pain, you may need:
- Pelvic floor therapy
- Vaginal dilators
Donât be afraid to ask your doctor a lot of questions. Itâs their job to help you feel comfortable through your treatment process.
Do You Need A Specialist
Often, a mix of mental and physical causes can lead to sexual pain. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist for the most complete care. That includes:
Pelvic floor physical therapist. Like the name suggests, these are health care professionals trained in pelvic floor issues. Theyâll ask about your symptoms and give you an exam. Theyâll check to see if your muscles are too relaxed or too tight. Itâs important to know the difference. Exercises to strengthen a weak pelvic floor, called Kegel exercises, will make pelvic floor tension worse.
Mental health counselor. Talk therapy can be helpful for managing your stress, depression, and anxiety.
Sex therapist. Sometimes relationship issues can get in the way of intimacy. A sexual counselor can give you and your partner a safe place to talk about any of your problems. Theyâre trained to help couples find ways to reconnect emotionally and sexually.
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How Do I Know If Changes In My Periods Are Normal Perimenopausal Symptoms Or Something To Be Concerned About
Irregular periods are common and normal during perimenopause . But other conditions can cause abnormalities in menstrual bleeding. If any of the following situations apply to you, see a doctor to rule out other causes.
- Your periods are changing to become very heavy, or accompanied by blood clots.
- Your periods last several days longer than usual.
- You spot or bleed after your period.
- You experience spotting after sex.
- Your periods occur closer together.
Potential causes of abnormal bleeding include hormonal imbalances, hormonal treatments, pregnancy, fibroids, blood-clotting problems or, rarely, cancer.
Complications Of Dry Eyes
If you have chronically dry eyes, you may experience the following complications:
- Infections. Your tears protect your eyes from the outside world. Without them, you have an increased risk of eye infection.
- Damage. Severe dry eyes can lead to inflammation and abrasions on the surface of the eye. This can cause pain, corneal ulcer, and vision problems.
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Pick Up A Vaginal Moisturizer
Polycarbophil gel, which is available over the counter, is a good first remedy, says Minkin. The product works mainly by adding water to the tissues, she says, and because its applied two or three times per week, you dont have to remember to use it every time youre intimate. The gel can be applied with an applicator into the vagina.
You can also apply some vaginal moisturizers externally. The labia can become dry, too, explains Minkin, which can make intercourse uncomfortable.
How To Treat Post
Most seniors continue to want and enjoy an active sex life with their spouse or significant other. Maintaining an active sex life can sometimes be a challenge — not because of a lack of desire, but because of changes associated with aging. For older women, vaginal dryness can play a part in decreasing desire for sex. But;vaginal dryness doesn’t mean you have to give up enjoying healthy sex life.;
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Can Vaginal Atrophy Get Worse
Be sure to address your symptoms quickly with your healthcare provider. The sooner you get treatment, the less likely it is that your vaginal atrophy will worsen. For example, the longer you go without estrogen, the dryer the vagina will become. Without treatment, yes, your vaginal atrophy may get worse. Occasionally, atrophy can become so severe that it can significantly narrow the vaginal opening. This may make it harder to treat the atrophy if treatment is initiated too late.
It Could Stretch Or Expand Into Other Organs
Vaginal prolapse happens when the vagina stretches or expands into other organs. It occurs during menopause because of decreased muscle tone in the pelvic regions, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Though many women dont experience symptoms, those that do may feel fullness in the vagina, a pulling or heavy feeling, low back pain that feels better when you lay down, or incontinence. If you experience any of these issues, talk to your doctor, who may recommend pelvic exercises that can help or surgery .
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Treating Vaginal Dryness With Hormones
Other options for treating vaginal dryness include hormonal treatments, which can have other added benefits for women who are post-menopausal. Some of these options include:
- Low-Dose Estrogen:;This kind of low-dose estrogen isn’t taken orally;but requires a prescription. You simply apply it directly on your vagina to increase the tissue’s thickness and elasticity, restore healthy acidity and relieve vaginal dryness by increasing natural secretions. Don’t expect instant results. You should see an improvement within the first few weeks and complete relief from symptoms may take several months.
- Vaginal Rings:;The ring is placed in the upper part of the vagina, releases a constant dose of estrogen, and lasts for about 3 months — at which point you can decide if you want another one or not.
- Osphena :;Ospemifene;is a tablet that works similarly to estrogen;but is not estrogen. Women take this tablet to alleviate the pain of penetration.
Keep in mind, just because you’re a senior, doesn’t mean you can attribute all vaginal symptoms to menopause. Consult your healthcare provider if your problems don’t improve with treatment.
Causes Of Vaginal Dryness
You can get vaginal dryness if you:
- go through the menopause
- take contraceptive pills or antidepressants
- have your womb removed
- have cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy
These things can cause a change in your hormone levels. This change can affect how much vaginal discharge or fluid you have.
You can also have vaginal dryness if you:
- are not aroused during sex
- use perfumed soaps, washes or douches in and around your vagina
- have an underlying condition, such as diabetes or Sjögren’s syndrome
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What Happens After Menopause
Will the hot flashes, mood swings, and other symptoms of menopause come to a halt when your periods are finally finished? Find out what to expect in the years after menopause.
Though you may have some idea of whats in store for you as you head toward menopause, the stage of life when the ovaries stop producing eggs and menstrual cycles dwindle, you may not quite know what to expect when your periods are officially over.
A woman is medically defined as being in menopause when she has not had a menstrual cycle for at least 12 months, says Kevin Audlin, MD, a gynecologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
At that point, the transition into your non-child-bearing years is complete.
Are There Any Other Emotional Changes That Can Happen During Menopause
Menopause can cause a variety of emotional changes, including:
- A loss of energy and insomnia.
- A lack of motivation and difficulty concentrating.
- Anxiety, depression, mood changes and tension.
- Aggressiveness and irritability.
All of these emotional changes can happen outside of menopause. You have probably experienced some of them throughout your life. Managing emotional changes during menopause can be difficult, but it is possible. Your healthcare provider may be able to prescribe a medication to help you . It may also help to just know that there is a name to the feeling you are experiencing. Support groups and counseling are useful tools when dealing with these emotional changes during menopause.
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What About Low Libido
Itâs normal for your sex drive to dip as you age. It can be caused by a lot of things. That includes lower hormone levels, medication, or other health conditions.
But low self-image, stress, relationship issues, depression, or fear of pain can make you less interested in sex. If any of these affect your desire, your doctor may want you to try:
- Sex therapy
Visit AASECT.org to find a certified sexuality educator, counselor, or therapist.
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 .
The first sign of vaginal atrophy is usually a decrease in vaginal lubrication.
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Sex May Become Painful
There are consequences to the estrogen drop that occurs at the time of menopause, namely less lubrication. And that desertlike dryness can make sex uncomfortable or even painful.
Changes to the vaginal tissue can also interfere with your ability to become lubricated, says Dr. Streicher, whos also the host of the forthcoming podcast Inside Information With Dr. Streicher. Thats where a good lubricant comes in. She recommends silicone-based lubes, because water-based lubes can actually be drying to vaginal tissue.
If lubricants arent enough to counter the dryness, you may want to use a vaginal moisturizer two or three times per week, which can help make sex more comfortable. Beyond that, talk to your doctor about other treatments, including vaginal estrogen, which is available in creams, rings, pills, and capsules.