Vaginal dryness is most often associated with the drop in estrogen levels that comes with menopause. It is a common symptom of this change of life and while it can be considered a minor irritation, it can have a detrimental effect on a woman’s sex life and well-being. The walls of the vagina are normally lubricated with a thin layer of fluid. Estrogen helps to maintain this fluid as well as keep the lining of the vagina healthy and elastic. However, during menopause when hormone levels decrease, the vagina becomes thinner, drier, and less elastic. Hormone changes can also result from childbirth and breastfeeding, surgical removal of the ovaries, chemotherapy or radiation, or some medications used to treat fibroids or endometriosis.
The doctors at San Francisco Women’s Healthcare provide several treatment options for women to choose from. One of the most common treatments is topical estrogen therapy. This treatment is administered via a vaginal estrogen ring, a vaginal estrogen tablet, or a cream. Topical estrogen provides low levels of estrogen replacement to relieve vaginal symptoms without putting as much into a patient’s bloodstream as traditional hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The doctors may suggest localized HRT, newer oral medications, or other at-home therapies such as vaginal moisturizers, water-based lubricants, and avoiding bubble baths, scented soaps and lotions, and douches.
Topical estrogen replacement therapies are common, however, some women are not suitable candidates. Women who have a history of breast cancer or endometrial cancer or those taking an aromatase inhibitor should not use topical replacement therapy. Pregnant or breastfeeding women are advised to avoid this form of treatment as well. The doctors at San Francisco Women’s Healthcare provide individual attention and customized treatment plans to address the needs of each patient.