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Vaginal Atrophy and Dryness

Vaginal atrophy, or genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM), is a common problem faced by many women across the globe. This problem is caused by a lack of estrogen, leading to the vaginal wall becoming thin and dry. As a result, the affected women experience pain during sex, itching, burning, and frequent urination and have a heightened risk of developing urinary tract infections.

The term ‘genitourinary syndrome of menopause‘ is a relatively new phrase that has often been used interchangeably with ‘vaginal atrophy.’ This is because GSM covers a range of symptoms caused by low estrogen during menopause, affecting the female urinary tract as well as the vagina.

While vaginal atrophy typically occurs during menopause, which happens around the age of 50, it can also affect young females who have lower estrogen levels.

Causes of Vaginal Atrophy and Dryness

Vaginal atrophy, or GSM, is primarily caused by decreased estrogen production. Lower estrogen levels lead to less elastic, drier, and inflamed tissues in the vagina and thinning of the vaginal wall.

A drop in estrogen levels may occur

  • During the years leading up to menopause.
  • After menopause.
  • After the surgical removal of both ovaries.
  • After radiation therapy for pelvic cancer.
  • After chemotherapy.
  • While taking medications that affect estrogen production.
  • After hormonal treatment for breast cancer.

It is pertinent to note that vaginal atrophy doesn’t occur in all menopausal women. With regular sexual activity, you can maintain healthy tissues of your vagina.

Symptoms of Vaginal Atrophy

The symptoms of vaginal atrophy or GSM may include the following

  • Dryness of the vaginal wall.
  • Burning sensation in the vagina.
  • The urgency to urinate.
  • Increased burning sensation with urination.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Urinary incontinence.
  • Fluid discharge from the vagina.
  • Painful or uncomfortable sexual intercourse.
  • A lack of lubrication during intercourse.

Diagnosis of Vaginal Atrophy

Vaginal atrophy, or atrophic vaginitis, can be diagnosed with a careful analysis of your signs and symptoms and a pelvic exam. Through these measures, the doctor will determine whether or not you are in menopause.

A few lab tests may also be performed for a more detailed analysis, such as

  • Urine sample examination
  • Pap test
  • Ultrasound
  • Vaginal pH
  • Serum hormone testing

Based on the results of these tests, your doctor will prescribe a non-surgical or surgical procedure to treat your condition.

Treatments for Vaginal Atrophy

Treatments for GSM include multiple options, which help restore moisture, tissue elasticity, and pH balance of the vagina, improving the atrophic symptoms.

Your doctor may choose from the following options to treat your vaginal atrophy.

Vaginal moisturizers

Several over-the-counter and prescription vaginal moisturizers are available on the market to help you restore some moisture in your vaginal canal.


Water-based lubricants are used before sexual activity to reduce discomfort during intercourse. If you are affected by vaginal atrophy, you must speak to your doctor before trying any lubricant product.

Hormone therapy

Vaginal estrogen therapy is a form of hormone therapy and is highly effective for treating GSM. This treatment reverses the impact of low estrogen on the vaginal canal by thickening its skin, increasing natural lubrication, and restoring pH.

PRP therapy

PRP injections have been found helpful in treating GSM symptoms. This procedure is carried out in a clinical setting where a practitioner draws a sample of blood from your veins. This blood is centrifuged to separate the platelet-rich plasma from other elements. This PRP is injected into the vaginal tissue. The growth factors in the PRP increase cell turnover, thicken the vaginal lining, and restore lubrication.

Radiofrequency treatment

Radiofrequency (RF) therapy for GSM uses electromagnetic waves that produce a thermal effect in the vaginal canal. This heat stimulates collagen production and helps treat dryness, burning sensation, urinary incontinence, and sexual dysfunction.

Autologous Fat Transfer (AFT)

Autologous fat transfer is an effective treatment of vaginal atrophy. It starts with fat extraction from the patient’s body area where excess fat is present. The extracted fat is processed in the lab, and the fat cells with a higher concentration of viable cells are chosen. These fat cells are then re-injected into the vulva and other areas of the vagina.

Autologous fat transfer alleviates several symptoms of GSM, such as dryness, soreness, burning sensations, and discomfort during intercourse.

What Are The Complications And Risks Of Vaginal Atrophy Treatment?

The risk of side effects with vaginal atrophy treatment depends significantly on the treatment option. For instance

  • Lubricants have been found to cause irritation, yeast infection, and allergic reactions and, in rare cases, interfere with fertility.
  • Systemic hormonal replacement therapy has been found to carry a risk of breast cancer. The extent of this risk depends on the type of HRT provided. Therefore, doctors recommend regular cancer screening to the recipients of HRT.
  • Injectable treatments like PRP may cause temporary swelling and bruising at the injection site.
  • Vaginal atrophy treatment with autologous fat transfer can cause complications such as infection, bleeding, and, in rare cases, fat embolism.

It is vital to get vaginal atrophy treatment from a highly skilled healthcare provider to prevent severe complications.

What’s The Difference Between Vaginal Atrophy (Atrophic Vaginitis) And a Yeast Infection?

Since both vaginal atrophy and yeast infection can cause similar symptoms, such as itching, dryness, pain, and redness, it can be hard to distinguish what condition you have. However, the causes of both conditions differ; vaginal atrophy results from decreased estrogen levels, while yeast infection is caused by a fungal infection.

How Common Is Vaginal Atrophy Among Women?

Vaginal atrophy, or GSM, is a common condition with symptoms appearing in approximately 15% of perimenopausal women and 40% to 57% of postmenopausal women, although the prevalence may vary depending on the population and study methodology.

Can Vaginal Atrophy (Atrophic Vaginitis) be Prevented?

Regular sexual activity is one of the best ways to prevent vaginal atrophy. If you have mild symptoms, use a water-soluble vaginal lubricant before intercourse. However, it is vital to consult with a qualified doctor before using a lubricant, as some products can worsen the symptoms of atrophic vaginitis.

Our Surgeons

A Word from the Dubai Cosmetic Surgery Clinic

Vaginal atrophy can be a severe health problem due to its tendency to affect your quality of life and cause various problems like UTIs, burning, and pain during sex. Fortunately, options to treat and prevent this problem are available. All you have to do is consult with a qualified doctor to find the most suitable option.

For more information, call +971 4 348 5575 or fill out the form below.

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