Vaginal atrophy occurs when the walls of the vagina become inflamed and become thinner than they were previously. It can lead to many uncomfortable symptoms, including discomfort during sex, discharge, and vaginal dryness. In some cases, it can be even be mistaken for a UTI or yeast infection due to it causing vaginal burning and itching, as well as the urge to urinate more frequently.
The leading cause of vaginal atrophy is thought to be a drop in estrogen levels, particularly right before or after menopause. It can also be caused by childbirth, breastfeeding, chemotherapy, or after taking medication that lowers estrogen in the body.
Below are three ways you can combat vaginal dryness due to vaginal atrophy and decrease your symptoms.
1. Consume More Soy
Soy contains a high level of isoflavones, which mimic estrogen and attach to estrogen receptors, increasing estrogen and allowing vaginal dryness to improve. Foods high in soy that you may want to consider including in your diet include edamame, soymilk, and tofu. If you would like to try a higher concentration of soy, it's best to try a supplement.
2. Start Using a DHEA Cream
There is some evidence to suggest that a DHEA cream could be effective in treating vaginal dryness in women that are experiencing menopause. DHEA is an androgen that is produced in the adrenal gland and plays a role in the production of estrogen. DHEA creams could be a safer alternative for women that are at risk for breast cancer since it can be converted to estrogen by the vaginal tissue without increasing estrogen levels in other areas of the body.
3. Look Into Vaginal Dilators
If you are looking for an approach that doesn't include treating vaginal dryness on a hormonal level, you may want to try a vaginal dilator. Vaginal atrophy can make the vagina feel tighter, leading to painful sex, which is usually blamed on dryness, though it may not be the root cause. Pelvic therapy, in conjunction with dilators, can allow the vagina to expand and alleviate symptoms.
If you suspect you have vaginal atrophy, are experiencing vaginal dryness, or are approaching menopause, contact your doctor and request a pelvic exam. Write down what you have tried, how long you have been experiencing symptoms, and any risk factors you think you may have. They can check for signs of inflammation, as well as run a urine test to ensure you don't have an infection.
If you have additional questions about DHEA cream or any other of the discussed treatments, reach out to a medical health professional near you.