Most women reach menopause between the ages 45 and 55, but for some women, it can occur earlier or sometimes even later in life. The average menopause age is 51 years old. For every woman, however, it can be different and there is no definitive way to predict when a woman will enter menopause. Women might experience different symptoms in the menopausal transition and the degrees of severity may vary. Not all women who go through perimenopausal and postmenopausal period will have the same symptoms nor experience the same levels of severity.
One of the symptoms of menopause is vaginal atrophy.
What is vaginal atrophy?
This is a change in the vagina that develops when there is a tremendous decrease in levels of estrogen (female hormone). It is also known as atrophic vaginitis. The ovaries produce estrogen which plays a major role in keeping vaginal tissues healthy and lubricated. When estrogen levels are low, vaginal tissue becomes atrophic – thin, shrunken and dry. The vagina might also become more prone to inflammation in an atrophic state.
Common Conditions that Cause Vaginal Atrophy
*Menopause – Normal, age-related changes to the body cause the ovaries to decrease their estrogen production.
*Surgical Removal of Ovaries – It might lead to vaginal atrophy when removed before the age of natural menopause. This can be done the same time as a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus).
*Medications – Certain treatments require medications that decrease estrogen levels in women such as those who have endometriosis or uterine fibroids.
*Lactational Atrophic Vaginitis (Breastfeeding) – Estrogen levels decrease secondary to the loss of placental estrogen. Women who breastfeed have high levels of prolactin – causing the decline on estrogen production.
*Premature Menopause – When a woman experiences menopause before the age of 40, vaginal atrophy usually occurs.
Vaginal atrophy typically develops slowly. Some women tend to not notice any symptoms until 5 to 10 years after menopause begins.
Common signs of vaginal include:
*Vaginal itch or a burning sensation
*Light bleeding after intercourse
*Painful sexual intercourse
If you are middle-aged woman, it is best to let your doctor know whether you have entered the menopausal period or whether you have been experiencing menopausal symptoms.
If you are a woman of childbearing age, let your doctor know if you are breastfeeding or if you are having irregular menstrual periods as this could cause low estrogen levels. You might also be having an imbalance in female hormones.
There are diagnostic exams to be done by your doctor to be able to diagnose you with vaginal atrophy. Make sure you seek a professional’s help immediately. Dr. Fay Weisberg can surely help you with this concern. Setup an appointment with her today.