Vaginal Atrophy: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Vaginal Atrophy

Vaginal atrophy is commonly found in women after menopause. Inflammation, dryness, and thinning of vaginal walls are some common symptoms. Apart from pain and irritation, your body starts to experience signs of low estrogen levels as an effect of menopause.

What is Vaginal Atrophy?

Vaginal atrophy is a health condition that occurs after the age of 50. After menopause, your body starts to undergo certain changes as your ovaries produce fewer hormones. In most cases of vaginal atrophy, the estrogen hormone levels drop by almost 85%. This health condition is also known as atrophic vaginitis.

It is also found in younger women if the estrogen level is affected. Vaginal atrophy is often referred to as the genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM). Almost 50% of women who go through menopause are likely to experience signs of vaginal atrophy.

What causes vaginal atrophy?

The Estrogen hormone is responsible for your child-bearing capacity and regular menstrual cycles. Low estrogen levels, which is often a part of the natural process of menopause, leads to vaginal atrophy. Here are some causes for a drop in estrogen level and vaginal atrophy.

  • Menopause and perimenopause (early years before entering menopause)
  • Removal of ovaries leads to a failure to produce estrogen
  • Medication, especially certain types of birth control pill
  • Pelvic radiation therapy
  • Cancer therapy / Chemotherapy
  • Side effects of hormone treatment after breast cancer

What are the signs and symptoms of vaginal atrophy?

Following are some common symptoms you may experience during vaginal atrophy.

  • Dryness of vagina
  • Irritation or sense of burning
  • Itching around your genitals
  • Frequent episodes of yeast infections
  • Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • The frequent urge of urination
  • Painful intercourse
  • Pain after or during the intercourse
  • Loss of lubrication
  • Feeling of discomfort after sex
  • Bleeding after intercourse
  • Presence of abnormal vaginal discharge

When to see a doctor?

If you experience symptoms of vaginal atrophy that include bleeding, spotting, unexplained vaginal discharge, or frequent infections, get in touch with a doctor to seek treatment.

What are the risk factors of vaginal atrophy?

Some factors put you at more risk of developing vaginal atrophy, such as,

  • Smoking: Smoking is known for adversely affecting your health. If you smoke, you are likely to develop issues related to blood circulation. Smoking is also responsible for a drop in estrogen levels.
  • No sexual activity: No or very little sexual activity can put you at the risk of developing Vaginal atrophy. Sexual activity is crucial to increase blood flow in your reproductive parts and enhances the elasticity of your vagina.
  • No childbirth: If you have never given birth, you may likely experience vaginal atrophy.

What are the complications of vaginal atrophy?

Untreated vaginal atrophy may lead to certain health complications.

  1. Recurring infections: You may experience frequent vaginal infections due to vaginal atrophy. Changes in the pH level of your vagina may cause bacterial or fungal infections.
  2. Urinary tract-related problems: You may experience urinary tract-related issues due to vaginal atrophy. Burning sensation, frequent urge to urinate is often a complication of untreated vaginal atrophy.

How to prevent vaginal atrophy?

Your body’s estrogen levels drop as a part of the natural process. There is nothing one can do about the natural change in your estrogen levels. However, you take preventive measures such as,

  • Avoiding tight fitted clothes
  • Avoids use of scented hygiene products
  • Limit the use of powders, perfumes, and spermicidal creams

How to treat vaginal atrophy?

Signs of vaginal atrophy can be treated with products such as,

  • Vaginal lubricants: A doctor can prescribe water-based vaginal lubricants to soothe burning and inflammation.
  • Moisturizers: You can use topical moisturizers as prescribed by your doctor to deal with vaginal dryness. You may need to apply it every day to manage your symptoms.
  • Estrogen creams: You can use estrogen cream or suppositories by using an applicator. These creams are usually applied during bedtime.
  • Vaginal estrogen tablets: To elevate your estrogen levels, a doctor may prescribe vaginal estrogen tablets. These tablets are inserted into your vagina.
  • Systemic hormone therapy (Hormone replacement therapy): This kind of therapy involves doses of estrogen. It helps to deal with hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep-related issues.


Menopause is a natural body process. However, low levels of estrogen can be experienced before menopause. With preventive measures and proper treatment, you can manage symptoms of vaginal atrophy and lead to better vaginal and overall health.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Is vaginal atrophy curable?

Ans: Vaginal atrophy can be managed with estrogen creams and systemic hormone therapy. However, once you reach menopause, it is natural to see a dip in your estrogen levels.

Can douching lead to vaginal dryness?

Ans: Yes. Douching usually results in vaginal dryness due to a change in your vaginal pH levels.