What about menopause and vaginal dryness?

With the end of menstrual cycles and the beginning of menopause, a wide variety of menopausal symptoms can occur. Some women complain of increased hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and mood irritability, and others complain of decreased sleep and fatigue. Mood changes and hot flashes are very common and can be contributing factors to lowered interest and sexual problems.

Every woman's experience of menopause is different and unique; no two women experience the same symptoms. Race as well as culture may influence your symptomatology and subjective experience of menopause. Black, Asian, and Caucasian women may have different incidences of complaints with respect to hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

The loss of estrogen can be associated with vaginal dryness and subsequent painful intercourse. The troublesome symptoms of severe and debilitating hot flashes may affect your quality of life and can impair sexual functioning. Be certain to have your hot flashes managed by a healthcare professional. Certainly, a wide variety of methods can be used to control your hot flashes, including hormones (estrogen treatment and estrogen and testosterone for refractory hot flashes). Popular types of hormone therapy[1] include conjugated estrogens (Premarin), medroxyprogesterone acetate (Provera), and a combination of both (PremPro) that come in a variety of dosages and have minimal side effects. Another popular regime is estradiol and norethindrone acetate (Ativella). Hot flashes can also be helped by lifestyle changes, including avoidance of caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods, and by taking some vitamin supplements. Sometimes practical suggestions can help such as using biofeedback, changing clothing or temperature settings, avoiding cigarette smoke, and using a cooling pillow (Chillow) or menopause sleepwear. Paced respirations and controlling the way you breath are also helpful for some women. Sometimes relaxation techniques such as yoga[2], foot reflexology, therapeutic massage, meditation[3], or functionalized acupuncture[4] programs can also be helpful with treating both menopausal and sexual complaints. There has been remarkable progress in the field of acupuncture and it is noted to be helpful in the comprehensive management of hot flashes. Sometimes certain medications such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors[5] (venlafaxine [Effexor], paroxetine [Paxil]), antihypertensive medications (clonidine, methyldopa), and a few of the anti-epileptics (gabapentin [Neurontin]) have also been shown to be effective in selected patients with hot flashes.

Vaginal dryness is a serious medical issue that many women suffer with in silence. It can lead to decreased vaginal elasticity and poor pliability and stretch ability. Many women with severe atrophy or dryness suffer from painful intercourse and may also suffer from frequent urinary tract infections. In recent research, Goldstein and associates address the issues of vaginal atrophy[6], its causes, and its resulting impact on female

The loss of estrogen can be associated with vaginal dryness and subsequent painful intercourse.

sexual health and function. Vaginal dryness occurs not only in mature women—women who breast feed, those taking certain medications (allergy medications can be big offenders), and those who suffer from a variety of other medical conditions can all experience vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness can lead to painful intercourse, which then leads to avoidant behavior, resulting in lowered interest—why take part in something if it's painful and uncomfortable?

There are many choices of therapy ranging from vaginal moisturizers and lubricants to minimally absorbed, local vaginal estrogen products such as creams, rings, and tablets that can help restore and revitalize the vaginal mucosal lining (these are discussed later). Nonhormonal vaginal moisturizers or vitamin E can be applied in the vaginal area and can help hydrate the vaginal tissues. Vaginal moisturizers should be used on a regular basis to help hydrate and revitalize the vaginal lining. Lubricants are designed for intercourse. Lubricants, especially those without flavors, colors, and warming additives, can and should be used liberally during intercourse. Avoid using lubricants such as petroleum jelly (Vaseline), extra virgin olive oil, and other household products because they can change the natural balance of your vaginal bacteria and in some women can lead to infections. An excellent lubricant is a water-based gel such as Slippery Stuff, which is glycerin-free. Many women find it helpful to use lubricants prior to intercourse. Some popular lubricants include Astroglide and K-Y Jelly (Johnson and Johnson pharmaceuticals).

  • [1] The use of medications to modify or replace hormones that are decreased or absent in the menopause period.
  • [2] The spiritual practice aiming to unite the consciousness with universal consciousness to achieve harmony.
  • [3] A complementary medicine practice of concentrated attention toward a single point of reference.
  • [4] A traditional Chinese practice of treating a health condition or medical state by inserting needles into the skin at specific points to unblock the flow of energy.
  • [5] A type of antidepressant medication that does not allow serotonin to be taken up again by the neuroreceptors, thereby causing more serotonin to be present in the neuron. These may be used for depression and panic attacks.
  • [6] When the vaginal tissues decrease in size, become pale or dry and without lubrication; this is a result of decreased hormonal levels in the woman's body. The tissues can become sensitive and often vaginal atrophy is associated with painful intercourse. Commonly seen in chemical or natural menopause.
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