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The unexpected symptom of menopause

Menopause is the time of life we always hear about and dread. "The change" is expected to cause things like hot flashes or night sweats, but there are so many other things that we never hear about. The big one that we are often surprised to experience is vaginal dryness.

Now, I am not talking about just a little minor dryness either. Sometimes the Sahara Desert doesn't even -egin to describe the type of dryness that some women experience. And intimacy? Just forget about it! Most people think that using a bit a lubrication will do the trick. In the early stages, that is true. But as menopause progresses, lubricants are simply not enough.

What causes this?

Vaginal atrophy is caused by changes in the vaginal lining or mucosa that occur when hormone levels start to fall whether this is due to natural menopause, surgery or even medications or chemotherapy. The healthy, thick, pink and elastic vaginal mucosa is slowly replaced by thin, pale, nonelastic tissue. The tissue will tear and cause severe pain in many cases.

So what is the good news?

The good news is that there are several treatment options for this condition of severe vaginal dryness or vaginal atrophy. The simplest solution to dryness is lubricants. There are many available over-the-counter, but what do you do when that isn't enough?

What treatments are there?

Hormone replacement therapy often will relieve some of the symptoms of menopause such as the hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Bioidentical hormone therapy may improve these symptoms and more such as low libido, memory changes, etc. by restoring hormonal balance and reversal the changes in the vaginal mucosa.

Prescription vaginal creams may also be used. These creams can be tailored to the individual patient. The creams are placed in the vagina 2-3 times weekly most often. The creams usually contain estrogen, testosterone or a combination. Testosterone cream is often used in patients who have had estrogen-sensitive cancers such as breast or uterine.

MonaLisa Touch vaginal laser is fairly new, innovative approach to treatment of vaginal atrophy. The technology behind the laser was developed decades ago, but it has only in the last few years been used for the vagina. The laser involves no hormones of any kind. It is an office-based procedure which takes less than 5-6 minutes to perform and has excellent results. Patients get the most benefit from 3 consecutive treatments which are performed 6 weeks apart. Afterwards, the healthy vaginal mucosa usually lasts about a year at which time one annual maintenance treatment is recommended.

For more information about any of these treatment options, call our office at 903-957-0275 or ask your healthcare professional.

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