Vaginal Atrophy

INTIMACY
Saturday, June 14, 2014
VAGINAL ATROPHY
Let's get talking about it ladies!
Vaginal Atrophy

I have to say it bluntly...us women, we like to talk, and talk, and talk. It just feels good to get all those feelings out - doesn't it! So why do we get so dumbfounded when the topic of vaginas comes up? Not to mention a "problem" with our vaginas!? What is the big deal after all? We have reached a comfort zone (somewhat) when it comes to talking about breast cancer and mammograms...and thank goodness for that. However, now is the time to speak out, loud and clear, about another topic that may be considered somewhat "taboo": Vaginal Atrophy. Also referred to as simply VA, or as vaginal dryness, the time has come to get the dialogue going.

 

Did you know that VA is a chronic condition affecting one in two women as they reach menopause and yet remains largely overlooked with only 25% of cases detected? To bring a spotlight to this issue, “Talk about your pain and live your life again” is the latest call to action from the Lebanese Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (LSOG) and Novo Nordisk raising awareness of Vaginal Atrophy.

 

Actresses Yvonne Maalouf, Claude Baz, and Laila Hakim from renowned film "Where Do We Go Now?" are featured in the campaign advising menopause-age women not to suffer urinary/genital symptoms in silence because Vaginal Atrophy is treatable with excellent results.

 

 “Knowledge of Vaginal Atrophy is low in Lebanon and the symptoms can affect a woman’s overall health, sexual intimacy, relationships and self-confidence,” said Dr. Faysal El-Kak, LSOG President. “Women need to speak up more about what they’re experiencing especially since Vaginal Atrophy will not go away on its own and tends to worsen with time unlike temporary symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes. If left untreated, the condition can lead to irreversible urogenital changes in some women including urinary incontinence.”

 

So what exactly are the symptoms of VA? We are talking... vaginal dryness, burning, itching, soreness, painful intercourse, bleeding or spotting during intercourse, an urgent need to urinate, urinary frequency and incontinence, and multiple urinary tract infections.

 

Healthcare professionals are being called upon to encourage patients to talk about Vaginal Atrophy and get the dialogue started. Once women start to talk about it, appropriate treatment options can be discussed, and their quality of life can improve. It is a shame to suffer when there is help available.

 

The campaign launch also featured live testimony from Zoya Awky, Lecturer at Notre Dame University and academic services supervisor at the University’s Audiovisual Arts department, who discussed her own experience with Vaginal Atrophy. She showcased a 15-minute documentary on menopause’s reflection on women’s lives, which she produced herself. It hit home with the women who viewed it during the launch and proved how this topic is still an awkward one for many to discuss openly. It is time to change that.

 

So what are the causes of Vaginal Atrophy? VA is caused by a decline in estrogen production. Less circulating estrogen makes vaginal tissue thinner, drier, less elastic, and more delicate. Estrogen deficiency leads to a decrease in acidity of vaginal fluid as well, thus predisposing the vagina to infections.

 

A multinational survey (VIVA) among 3,520 post-menopausal women found that although near half of them reported experiencing symptoms of vaginal symptoms, 63% of them fail to recognize Vaginal Atrophy as a chronic condition requiring ongoing treatment of the underlying cause and more than 90% attribute the symptoms to other conditions such as vaginal thrush and bladder infections.

 

So what does treatment entail? There are many  safe and effective treatment options available to deal with the symptoms, and minimize or reverse the physiological changes caused by estrogen loss. Talk to your doctor!! Ask him/her which options and treatments are suitable for you. Treatments usually include local low dose estrogen administration, which only reaches the bloodstream in very minimal amounts and remain within the physiological norms for a woman's age.

 

So how is your vagina doing today? Yalla ladies, put on that pot of coffee, and let's start talking about Vaginal Atrophy!

 

Did you know...?

  • Beginning around the ages of 45-55, vaginal atrophy is a common chronic condition which involves thinning and inflammation of the vaginal lining due to a decline in estrogen, a female hormone produced by the ovaries.
  •  It can also develop during breast-feeding, or at any other time a woman’s estrogen production declines due to radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunologic disorders, or some medications.
  • Vaginal atrophy can have serious long-term effects in some women if left untreated.
  • In Lebanon, estimates based on international prevalence rates put the number of women 45-60 years old in the country who suffer from vaginal atrophy at nearly 120,000 with most left untreated.   
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