What does it mean when the most tender of our body parts falls flat? The thinning, drying and inflammation of vaginal walls, called vaginal atrophy, that usually occurs after menopause can also affect younger women. But, just as there are therapies for face wrinkles and sagging skin, there is something you can do to address vaginal atrophy no matter what your age.
While the most typical cause of this condition is loss of estrogen due to age, surprisingly, vaginal atrophy does affect younger women, too. There are many reasons why: smoking; medications, like those that treat endometriosis or fibroids; chemotherapy or endocrine therapy; prolonged breast feeding; going without periods due to excessive exercise or eating disorders; surgical removal of the ovaries with or without a hysterectomy; and premature ovarian failure.
Any of these can cause a decrease in estrogen that can lead to a decrease in collagen, elastic tissue and blood vessels, which subsequently result in vaginal atrophy symptoms. These symptoms are varied and can include vaginal dryness, burning, itching, painful intercourse, leaking urine or the feeling that you need to urinate urgently, and a decreased sexual drive.
When these symptoms occur in women who are still of child-bearing age, it’s important to evaluated by a practitioner to ensure that the issue is really vaginal atrophy and not some other underlying condition. Younger women can often reduce the effects of symptoms by using lubricants with intercourse, vaginal moisturizers, local estrogen application, mechanical stimulation or herbs and supplements. Other options include selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) or the MonaLisa Touch CO2 laser.
If a woman has exhausted the non-clinical salves but the symptoms are still affecting her daily life activities, I recommend looking into the MonaLisa Touch. It’s a great solution for women who don’t want to start estrogen replacement therapy and don’t want surgery. The five-minute outpatient procedure enables the body to use its own healing response to regenerate vaginal tissue and revitalize the vagina. It’s done without any cutting, hormones or medication (except for some topical lidocaine). Light and gentle heat do the work to improve vaginal elasticity, building new collagen, elastic fibers and blood vessels. It also aids in decreasing vaginal and urinary tract infections.
A side benefit of this treatment is that it improves initiation and receptivity to sex and increases sexual intimacy.
The MonaLisa treatment is not appropriate for women with vaginal, cervical or other lesions in the treatment area or those who may have an infection or are pregnant. Be sure to ask your doctor if this therapy could be an option for you, or call us here at Colorado Complete Health for Women. I’d be happy to help you evaluate your unique situation and develop a healing plan together. Visit my website or call (303) 690-2198.
** This blog post was written to serve as informational guidance about vaginal health and should not be taken as concrete medical advice, nor do the views above reflect the views of Colorado Complete Health for Women or the HealthONE organization. As with any medical questions or concerns, it’s imperative to make an appointment with your physician for proper counseling.
Dr. Kimberly Larson-Ohlsen, FACOG, is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology, a fellow in integrative medicine, and a certified acupuncturist at Colorado Complete Health for Women. She graduated medical school from the University of California, Irvine. With a passion for integrative gynecology and specializes in alternative approaches to care, Dr. Larson-Ohlsen is dedicated to treating the whole patient in mind, body and community. Outside of work, she enjoys yoga, travel and photography. Learn more at cchw.com or call (303) 690-2198.