Vaginal infections actually become more common in middle aged women – because as you hit menopause, the dwindling estrogen levels lead to ‘aging’ of the vaginal walls and tissues. This leaves them unprotected against infection and atrophy. Now while infections like trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection can affect women of any age, atrophy is a condition that primarily affects menopausal women.
And today we’ll be looking into both atrophy as well as infections. And let’s start with…
Self-diagnosing vaginal infection
Irrespective of age, the signs of vaginal infection are the same. And we have listed the common ones here:
- Vaginal discharge that is abnormal in quantity, color and smell.
- A burning sensation when passing urine.
- Irritation (burning or itching) in the area surrounding the vagina as well as inside.
- Uncomfortable intercourse with or without pain.
If you have experienced any of these, then you need to book an appointment with your Obstetrician or Gynaecologist.
This is because, while most infections tend to clear up on their own, the discomfort from them can hinder your well being and sexual health. So, visiting a doctor and getting the proper treatment is necessary. Besides this, for a variety of infections, you can always try natural remedies.
And now we look at the more common vaginal problem associated with menopause and middle age…
Vulvo-vaginal atrophy (VVA)
Now this isn’t exactly an infection, but the condition makes your vagina much more prone to inflammation and infection. Also it is the most commonly found precursor to infection of the vagina in middle aged and menopausal women. So, we’ll take a look at the details of this condition…
What is VVA?
When the estrogen levels in the body dwindle, it affects the vaginal tissues and walls. The estrogen secreted by your ovaries is what keeps the vaginal walls lubricated and protected. But in the absence of this hormone, the walls dry out. This leads to the walls thinning and losing their elasticity. This condition is called Vaginal Atrophy.
What are the symptoms of VVA?
Well, as your vagina starts to dry out, you feel this dryness. Also as the walls thin down and the lubrication is missing, the pH of the vagina is affected. This increases chances of infection, and also leads to inflammation and irritation even without infection. Now, in a nutshell:
- The vagina feels dry and uncomfortable.
- Burning sensation or pain in the vagina and surrounding areas.
- Pain during intercourse.
- Bleeding, albeit light, post intercourse.
How is it cured?
Well, unlike vaginal infection, this is a condition that does not clear up on its own. It requires treatment in the form of topical vaginal lubricants, or estrogen therapy. It is only when these things are tried out that vaginal atrophy can be cured.
Are there any risks associated with VVA?
As mentioned earlier, VVA means that the vaginal walls become weaker and more vulnerable to infection. In addition, the loss of the lubrication means that the natural acidic state of the vagina is affected, and this makes it an ideal place for the growth of infections.
Therefore, VVA is a prime condition for vaginal infections. And whether you have this condition or an actual vaginal infection – you should visit your Obstetrician or Gynaecologist soon and get it checked out.
Remember that diagnosing infections of the vagina correctly is a difficult job even for the doctor, as when one infection hits, it is usually accompanied by others. And this makes distinguishing them difficult. But with early detection and care, you can get over the discomfort with the least worry and effort.