Vaginal atrophy relates to the thinning, drying and swelling of the vaginal walls that may occur when the body is producing less estrogen. As a result, this also causes vaginal dryness. It is a common problem that most women suffer from at some point in their lives, although it occurs more frequently in older women, particularly after menopause.
The skin and tissues around the vagina are kept moist and supple by fluids and mucus that are made in glands located in the neck of the womb. The female hormone estrogen helps keep vaginal tissue healthy by maintaining normal vaginal lubrication, tissue elasticity and acidity.
The condition often occurs as a result of the reduced levels of estrogen produced in the body, resulting in thinner, drier and less elastic vaginal tissue and loss of fatty tissues from around the genital area.
Some causes include the following:
- Age: It is common to suffer from such conditions as the body naturally ages.
- Undergoing a hysterectomy
- Side effects of certain medications such as anti-depressants, allergy and cold medications.
- Having an underlying medical condition such as diabetes or Sjogren’s syndrome
- Radiation from treatments for cancer
Women can also suffer from dryness by the following:
- Using excessive perfumed products around the genital area
- Are not mentally or physically aroused during sex
There are several symptoms linked to vaginal atrophy, varying from mild to severe. Some women will experience several of these, while others may only have one or two, they affect a woman’s sexuality and quality of life. Symptoms include the following:
- Vaginal dryness
- Redness and itching of the genitalia
- Burning sensation in the vagina
- Urinary incontinence
- Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Painful intercourse; decreased lubrication during sexual activity
- Bleeding or discomfort after intercourse
- Tightening and shortening of the vaginal canal
- Atrophy of the labia majora and minora
- Loss of subcutaneous fat
- Dry labia
The diagnosis of vaginal atrophy and dryness is typically based on age, history of particular symptoms and current medical history to determine a diagnosis. To confirm the diagnosis, a pelvic examination is often conducted to examine the vulva and vagina for signs of dryness, redness, loss of volume and plumpness from the genital area. Before a treatment plan is put into place, it’s important for the physician to examine the vaginal wall and cervix health along with conducting a PAP test.
These adhere to the surface of the vagina releasing water and producing a moist layer over the vaginal tissue helping restore vagina’s pH balance.
- Vaginal lubricants: A lubricant can be used during sexual activity
- Hormone replacement therapy: Oral, skin patch or vaginal estrogen can help restore normal vaginal pH, decrease vaginal dryness and increase vagina secretions.
- Laser and/or Radiofrequency (RF) treatment: Heat is generated to a controlled temperature inducing the production of collagen. Through lasers and RF treatment the heat is applied to the genital region and vaginal walls followed by cooling probes reducing discomfort during the treatment. Such medical advances reduce skin laxity, improve strength of the skin and tighten the vagina walls through collagen production.
A small sample of blood Is taken from the patient; this is then spun in a specialized centrifuge machine to concentrate the platelets. The activated platelets are injected into the vagina walls inserting younger tissues into the vagina walls. This increases hydration of the tissue showing remarkable improvements.
Lipo-filling is an advanced medical treatment with increasing popularity. It is used for both filling and rejuvenating the vaginal area. Fatty tissues are removed from one part of the body, purified and prepared for grafting into the vagina. This process is called injecting stromal vascular fraction (SVF). The innovative procedure aids tissue regeneration and minimizes dryness by injecting SVF from unwanted body fat tissue into the vagina walls.