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Why should I seek treatment for atrophic vaginitis?

Up to half of all menopausal women experience atrophic vaginitis, the thinning and hardening of vaginal tissues as a result of declining estrogen levels, which can lead to pain during intercourse. Atrophic vaginitis also may occur at other “low estrogen” times in a woman’s life, such during breastfeeding or after cancer treatment.

Estrogen replacement is the most common treatment for atrophic vaginitis, but an active sex life is helpful, too. This includes masturbation and partner sex, since both bring increased blood flow to the genitals, and with that comes oxygen and moisture to keep tissues healthy. Women who haven’t been sexually active can ease back into sex with masturbation, or with sexual activity with a partner that doesn’t include penetration. The use of dilators, in gradually increasing sizes, can help, too.

However, it may take some time to get the vagina to the point where penetration is comfortable and enjoyable, up to two years for some women, though most women respond sooner.

Many women are embarrassed to reach out for help, or rationalize the symptoms as a part of aging and a reason to stop being sexual, especially if they don’t have a partner. However, in addition to affecting a woman’s relationship, atrophic vaginitis can also lead to problems with vaginal infections and incontinence, so it’s important to seek treatment with a healthcare provider.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.