Atrophic vaginitis

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Atrophic vaginitis

Definition

Atrophic vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina due to thinning and shrinking tissues and a decrease in lubrication.

Causes

Atrophic vaginitis is typically caused by a decrease in estrogen. Estrogen levels normally drop after menopause. The disorder may occur in younger women who have had surgery to remove their ovaries. Some women develop the condition immediately after childbirth or while breastfeeding, since estrogen levels are lower at these times.

Symptoms

  • Vaginal soreness -- may be an itching or burning sensation.
  • Slight vaginal discharge.
  • Burning on urination.
  • Light bleeding after intercourse.
  • Painful sexual intercourse.

Exams and Tests

A pelvic examination reveals thin, pale vaginal walls. A wet prep (microscopic evaluation of vaginal discharge) may be done to rule out other causes of vaginitis. Hormonal studies may be done if menopausal status is uncertain.

Treatment

Estrogen replacement therapy may be recommended. Estrogen may be given as a cream or tablet placed into the vagina, as a skin patch, or in pill form.

Women may want to discuss the risks and benefits of estrogen replacement therapy (pills) with their health care provider.

A water-soluble vaginal lubricant may help relieve pain during intercourse.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Proper treatment will usually relieve the symptoms.

Possible Complications

Atrophic vaginitis may make you more prone to vaginal infections caused by bacteria or fungi (yeast).

Atrophic vaginitis can also cause open sores or cracks in the vaginal wall.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you are experiencing vaginal dryness or soreness, burning, itching, or painful sexual intercourse that is not alleviated with a water-soluble lubricant.

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