What is vaginal atrophy?
Vaginal atrophy (atrophic vaginitis) is thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal walls due to your body having less estrogen. Vaginal atrophy occurs most often after menopause. This is because women lose the hormone estrogen at that time. Atrophy can also occur in younger women who have a decrease in estrogen. For many women, vaginal atrophy not only makes intercourse painful, but also leads to distressing urinary symptoms.
With moderate to severe genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM), you may experience the following vaginal and urinary signs and symptoms:
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal burning
- Vaginal discharge
- Genital itching
- Burning with urination
- Urgency with urination
- More urinary tract infections
- Urinary incontinence
- Light bleeding after intercourse
- Discomfort with intercourse
- Decreased vaginal lubrication during sexual activity
- Shortening and tightening of the vaginal canal
Genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) is caused by a decrease in estrogen production. Less estrogen makes your vaginal tissues thinner, drier, less elastic and more fragile. A drop-in estrogen levels may occur:
- After menopause
- During the years leading up to menopause (perimenopause)
- After surgical removal of both ovaries (surgical menopause)
- After pelvic radiation therapy for cancer
- After chemotherapy for cancer
- As a side effect of breast cancer hormonal treatment
Diagnosis of genitourinary syndrome of menopause may involve:
- Pelvic exam, during which your doctor feels (palpates) your pelvic organs and visually examines your external genitalia, vagina and cervix. During the pelvic exam, your doctor also checks for signs of pelvic organ prolapse — indicated by bulges in your vaginal walls from pelvic organs such as your bladder or rectum or stretching of the support tissues of the uterus.
- Urine test, which involves collecting and analyzing your urine, if you have urinary symptoms.
- Acid balance test, which involves taking a sample of vaginal fluids or placing a paper indicator strip in your vagina to test its acid balance.
Certain factors may contribute to genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM), such as:
- Smoking. Cigarette smoking affects your blood circulation, resulting in the vagina and other tissues not getting enough oxygen. Smoking also reduces the effects of naturally occurring estrogens in your body. In addition, women who smoke typically experience an earlier menopause.
- No vaginal births. Researchers have observed that women who have never given birth vaginally are more likely to develop GSM than women who have had vaginal deliveries.
- No sexual activity. Sexual activity, with or without a partner, increases blood flow and makes your vaginal tissues more elastic.
Treatment of vaginal atrophy By Mona Lisa Laser
Mona Lisa Laser is a non-invasive and non-surgical treatment that has been used by women’s gynecologists in Australia for the treatment of vaginal atrophies since 2013. Treatment for vaginal atrophy can be done in a simple 5-minute process. During the Mona Lisa Laser treatment, a certain amount of heat is released into the vaginal tissue with energy and stimulates its cells for proliferation, and restores the consistency of the vaginal wall tissue and its blood vessels. Using monolayers, Mona Lisa laser is a very effective option for people who have not been treated before.