Women must be more confident discussing vulvovaginal atrophy

Wider choices of contraception needed to reduce clinic overload and costs.
Wider choices of contraception needed to reduce clinic overload and costs.

A new study released by the European Vulvovaginal Epidemiological Survey (EVES) concludes that vulvovaginal atrophy (VVA), or thin dry vaginal and vulvar tissues, is highly prevalent among postmenopausal women and can be associated with severe symptoms, including dryness; irritation; soreness; painful sexual intercourse; and urinary frequency, urgency, and urge incontinence, which can all lead to impaired quality of life.

The study included 2,160 women between 45 and 75 years old. If the patient reported at least one symptom of VVA, a gynaecological examination was performed. VVA was confirmed in 90% of the patients studied and those with confirmed VVA had more severe symptoms and a lower quality of life than those without a confirmed diagnosis.

“Providers fail to ask about VVA and many women don’t discuss their symptoms because either they don’t know enough or are too embarrassed to discuss their symptoms.”

The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) released guidelines for treating VVA titled “Management of Vulvovaginal Atrophy,” which states, “Non-hormonal vaginal lubricants with intercourse and regular use of long-acting vaginal moisturisers, if indicated, are ‘first-line therapies’ to combat this health problem.”

Mary Jane Minkin, MD, FACOG, clinical professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine said, “The study called for ‘appropriate clinical assessment and early therapeutic intervention,’ which can be tricky because providers fail to ask about it and many women don’t discuss their symptoms because either they don’t know about VVA or are too embarrassed to discuss their symptoms. That’s a shame because there are effective treatments available, from hormone therapies to over-the-counter hormone-free solutions, depending on personal preferences, needs, understanding of potential risks, and consultation with a health provider.”

Mary continued, “Post-menopausal women, even while taking systemic oestrogen, may still have symptoms related to VVA, and those with breast cancer generally experience a high incidence of the condition as many treatments can cause or exacerbate VVA. Women should not be afraid to describe their symptoms with their health provider and ask about potential solutions. A simple trip to the pharmacy for a vaginal moisturiser, could be the answer. moisturisers such as Replens changes the water content and moisturises vaginal tissues, making them more elastic, thicker, and with enhanced ability to maintain fluid. This can la for three days and can do much as a first-line therapy to enhance postmenopausal women’s quality of life in a safe and effective way.”