It’s a painful condition that can leave you itching, even burning down there — and no, it’s not a sexually transmitted infection!
Just when you thought you had enough to worry about after realizing having a “depressed” vagina is a thing, women are also at risk of vaginal atrophy.
Vaginal atrophy is a common but treatable condition that causes the vaginal wall to thin.
And while it can be a problem for women of any age, it’s more likely to affect women who are going through, or have been through, menopause.
This is because the body produces less estrogen than normal, which has an effect on how the vaginal wall behaves.
Vaginal atrophy can also occur in women who have been treated for cancer, especially in those who have had hormone treatment for breast cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Common symptoms include discharge, burning, itching, difficulty peeing and pain during sex.
This might seem like enough to put you off having sex for good, but regular orgasms — from your partner or a bit of self-love — can actually ward off the nasty symptoms.
And the key is the increased blood flow to your nether regions when you climax — it works almost like a “workout” down there.
Louise Mazanti, a London-based sex therapist, said: “It is very important that we have a healthy sex life with a partner or with ourselves.”
“People very often say, ‘I don’t have a sex life because I don’t have a partner.’”
“But forget about that and have a sexual relationship with yourself.”
“It’s about using massage and touching the tissue so that it becomes alive, the blood flows and the tissue becomes elastic.”
“It is really about exercising the tissue.”
Increasing blood flow increases oxygen supply to the vagina, which means it is less likely to become inflamed, thin or dry.
According to Mazanti, if cells are not getting enough oxygen, they cannot eliminate waste from the tissue, which can cause inflammation that leads to problems such as vaginal atrophy.
A buildup of toxins can also stop vital nutrients from getting to the cells, which can leave the tissue slightly weaker and thinner.
Mazanti also said losing the ability to have sex is not just a physical problem, it can have some serious side effects on a person’s mental health.
She added: “When your ability to have sex and your desire to have sex decreases, it is a massive change in identity.”
“You start to question ‘who am I now if I am not the sexual woman I used to be?’”
“It can cause depression and an identity crisis and deep consideration of an existential nature.”
What are the main symptoms of vaginal atrophy?
- Burning sensation, particularly when you pee
- Urgency to pee
- Urinary tract infections
- Light bleeding after sex
- Discomfort during sex
- Dryness during sex
- A shortening or tightening of the vagina
What causes the condition?
Vaginal atrophy is generally caused by a decrease in the production of the female sex hormone estrogen.
Estrogen is the main hormone that regulates a woman’s menstrual cycle and controls ovulation.
It is also responsible for thickening the vaginal wall and causes it to release mucous once a girl hits puberty.
So if you stop producing estrogen, the walls of your vagina can become thin and dry.
Vaginal atrophy is most common in women who have gone through the menopause, but certain cancer treatments and hormone treatments can also cause it.
Women who are smokers, who have never had a vaginal birth or do not have sex or pleasure themselves are also more at risk.
Smoking affects your blood circulation, resulting in the vagina and other tissues not getting enough oxygen.
It also reduces the effects of estrogen.
How can vaginal atrophy be treated?
Vaginal moisturizers and lubricants can be used to treat dryness and help improve your sex life.
You may have to apply moisturizer every two to three days but the effects usually last longer than lube.
A lubricant is used mainly to make sex easier and more enjoyable.
If symptoms don’t improve, over-the-counter estrogen therapy may be recommended.
Creams can be inserted into the vagina daily to restore the tissue.
Estrogen tablets may also be recommended to help restore the body’s natural levels.