When a woman's stops ovulating or producing an egg for fertilization, her body will go through changes that sometimes are difficult to understand, but are part of the natural cycle of life. Menopause is literally the cessation of menstruation. One condition that frequently occurs during the time leading into menopause (called perimenopause) is atrophic vaginitis.
Perimenopause is the period referred to when a woman says she's going through menopause. It typically starts between the ages of 45 and 55. The age you start perimenopause has a genetic connection. When your mother went through menopause is around the same time you probably will too.
During the time of perimenopause, a woman's body will start to experience hormone fluctuations. Specifically, she will produce less estrogen.
In atrophic vaginitis, there is a change in the cell structure of the cervix. The cervix is the opening that leads into the uterus or womb. The reduction of estrogen can cause atrophy to the cervical and vaginal area, resulting in vaginal dryness, burning, irritation, and pain with some bleeding after sex. This condition can also affect your urinary system, causing frequent urination and an increase of urinary tract infection.
With atrophic vaginitis, the risk of vaginal infection increases. The vaginal area becomes more susceptible to yeast and bacterial infections due to a change in the acidic environment. The thickening of the wall linings can also lead to open sores.
Mild symptoms can be relieved with an over- the-counter lubricant. If your symptoms are more intense, your doctor may prescribe topical estrogen. Topical estrogen comes in several forms, all inserted vaginally with an applicator. Examples include a cream, such as Estrace, a ring called Estring or a tablet known as Vagifem.
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