Vaginal symptoms: an expert's advice

Dr. Christine Derzko is a gynecologist who works in downtown Toronto in association with St. Michael's Hospital. She is also Associate Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Medicine at the University of Toronto. Dr. Derzko has helped many women who are going through menopause. She offers her advice on dealing with vaginal symptoms.

What vaginal symptoms can happen during menopause?

Vaginal symptoms, which are caused by a lack of estrogen, can start to appear in the years just before menopause. The first thing that women may notice is that they are lubricating less easily when sexually aroused. Later, they may notice that they have vaginal dryness. Without treatment, the tissues of the vagina may become so delicate and thin that they bleed easily - some women may bleed even when the vagina is touched with a Q-tip. Women may also have frequent urinary tract or vaginal infections.

How can vaginal symptoms affect a woman's life?

Very significantly. Vaginal symptoms can cause personal discomfort and make sex difficult or painful. A woman may stop having sex because she no longer enjoys it. This can affect her relationship with her partner.

Do most women seek help or suffer in silence?

Society puts a lot of pressure on women to have a great sex life. Many women suffer in silence because they feel embarrassed; only about 25% actually tell their doctor.

What treatments are available?

Some women simply need to use a lubricant before sex (having sex regularly can help keep the vagina healthy). Others need vaginal estrogen products, which are medications used directly in the vagina.

Choosing a treatment is a personal decision. You should keep a number of factors in mind when choosing a treatment, such as ease of use, method of application, convenience, and your own comfort level with the product. Speak to your doctor about your options.

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