Vaginal atrophy is commonly associated with menopause and a decrease in the body's production of estrogen. Without estrogen, the walls of the vagina can lose moisture. As the tissues begin to dry out and the walls of the vagina become thinner, intercourse may become painful and the woman may develop urinary problems. Urinary incontinence and an increase in the frequency of urination may result. As the condition continues to worsen, inflammation within the vagina may make it difficult to achieve penetration during intercourse. When vaginal atrophy occurs, intercourse may be extremely painful even if lubricants or oils are used.
Estrogen is responsible for many different aspects of a woman's reproductive system. During the aging process, the ovaries naturally begin to produce less estrogen. As time passes, the amount can decrease enough that the body begins to change. The vaginal tissues begin to dry out and become less elastic. As the condition progresses, the tissues begin to thin and shrink causing extreme discomfort during vaginal intercourse. Vaginal atrophy may also occur as the result of radiation or chemotherapy that was used to treat cancer near the reproductive organs. Hormone replacement therapy may be able to establish a moderate level of estrogen in the body, but lubricants may still be needed to prevent pain during intercourse.
Hormone replacement therapy may help to restore estrogen levels within the body but will only begin to improve vaginal dryness and atrophy they are in the earliest stages. Once the vaginal walls begin to deteriorate, other treatment options may be needed to help restore the tone and texture that has been lost. Hormone replacement therapy can help to prevent many of the symptoms associated with menopause and the decrease in production of estrogen. If the condition is caused by something else, such as a reaction to a medication or chemotherapy, hormone replacement therapy may not be able to help.
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