What Can I Do?
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The first, most important step is to prepare to talk with your health care professional and learn about your options. If your vaginal discomfort is related to a decrease in your estrogen levels, simple, effective treatments are available. The primary goals of vaginal atrophy treatment are to relieve symptoms and reverse atrophic anatomic changes.
Vaginal atrophy ranges in severity, from minor irritation to more painful levels that impact your ability to perform daily activities. Together, you and your health care professional will decide what type(s) of treatment are best for you.
Nonprescription options: lubricants and moisturizers
Nonhormonal vaginal lubricants can help decrease friction and discomfort during intercourse. These must be water-based and designed for vaginal use. Vaginal moisturizers can help relieve dryness and rebalance the acidity of the vagina. You may prefer a moisturizer if you have irritation or burning that is not limited to sexual activity.
Local estrogen therapy (LET)
If you've been diagnosed with vaginal atrophy, treatment most often takes the form of estrogen applied directly to the vaginal tissues. This is called local estrogen therapy, or LET. With LET, the estrogen goes directly into the tissues that are most affected. There is minimal absorption of estrogen into the bloodstream, since it is applied locally. LET is the standard therapy recommended for vaginal atrophy. It is not prescribed for hot flashes and other common whole-body symptoms of menopause.
Only you and your health care professional can decide if local estrogen treatment is right for you, based on your individual health history and current symptoms.
If your health care professional recommends LET, you can discuss the different options available to find out what dosing form and level fits your needs the best.
Some women may end up using both prescription medications and nonhormonal vaginal lubricants or moisturizers to ease uncomfortable symptoms. Learn more about choosing nonprescription options.
Systemic hormone therapy (HT)
Options for HT include tablets, patches, gels, or emulsions. These forms allow estrogen to circulate throughout the bloodstream and to all parts of the body. Systemic HT is most often prescribed for common whole-body symptoms of menopause. Almost all of the systemic forms have the potential to provide the full range of benefits and risks associated with HT.
Remember, your health care professional is the main source of information about you and your health. You may want to discuss the risks and benefits of estrogen therapy with your health care provider. Estrogen therapy may not be appropriate for all women.