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Vaginal Atrophy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is vaginal atrophy?

Vaginal atrophy is a condition that causes thinning, drying, and inflammation of vaginal tissue. This condition is caused by decreased levels of estrogen (a female sex hormone). Vaginal atrophy can increase your risk for vaginal and urinary tract infections. Vaginal atrophy can worsen over time if not treated.

What causes or increases your risk of vaginal atrophy?

  • Menopause
  • Medicines that lower your estrogen levels, such as those used to treat breast cancer, endometriosis, or fibroids
  • Radiation to your pelvic area
  • Surgery to remove the ovaries
  • Breastfeeding

What are the signs and symptoms of vaginal atrophy?

  • Vaginal dryness, itching, and burning
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Pain or discomfort during sex
  • Light bleeding after sex
  • Burning during urination
  • Frequent, sudden, strong urges to urinate
  • Urinary incontinence (loss of control of your bladder)

How is vaginal atrophy diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms. A pelvic exam will be done to examine your vagina and cervix. Your healthcare provider will place a speculum into your vagina to open and examine it. A sample of discharge from your vagina may be collected and tested. A urine test may also be done.

How is vaginal atrophy treated?

  • Over-the counter vaginal moisturizers can help reduce dryness. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you use a vaginal moisturizer several times each week and during sex. Only use creams that are made for vaginal use. Do not use petroleum jelly. Lubricants can be used during sex to decrease pain and discomfort.
  • Estrogen may help decrease dryness. It may also lower your risk of vaginal infections if you are going through menopause. It can also help to relieve urinary symptoms. Estrogen may be prescribed in the form of a cream, tablet, or ring. These medicines can be applied or inserted into the vagina. Estrogen can also be prescribed in the form of a pill.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a foul-smelling odor coming from your vagina.
  • You have a thick, cheese-like discharge from your vagina.
  • You have itching, swelling, or redness in your vagina.
  • You have pain or burning when you urinate.
  • Your urine smells bad.
  • Your symptoms do not improve, or they get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.