How is a vaginal estrogen cream or suppository used to treat menopause?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Estrogen can be applied directly to the vagina to ease the discomfort caused by vaginal atrophy. Atrophy is a change in the vaginal lining that can cause vaginal dryness, itching, irritation, or pain with intercourse. Estrogen is available by prescription as a cream (Estrace, Premarin) and as a suppository (Vagifem). It helps to restore the thickness and elasticity of the vagina, which can improve symptoms.

Vaginal estrogen is more effective than estrogen taken by mouth or with a skin patch for relieving symptoms of dryness, itching, and pain during intercourse. It is also more effective than other gels and creams that do not contain estrogen. It can take a few weeks, and sometimes longer, for the symptoms to lessen.

Vaginal estrogen can also help to relieve urinary symptoms. During menopause, many women need to urinate often and urgently. They may need to urinate at night and sometimes urinating is painful. For these symptoms, vaginal estrogen is more effective than either the pill form or the patch. Vaginal estrogen can also help some women with bladder control problems or frequent urinary tract infections. 

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