Low estrogen and its effects on vaginal health

Each year, more than 2 million women begin the transition into menopause, a transition that can last several years. It commonly occurs when a woman reaches her early 50s but can occur in the late 30s and 40s as well.

The reduction in estrogen production during menopause often brings with it a variety of unpleasant symptoms that can significantly impact your quality of life. Get the facts on estrogen and how it influences your overall health, especially your vaginal health, and what you can do about it.

Estrogens and women’s health

Estrogens are a group of female sex hormones, and while there’s more than one, physicians tend to focus on estradiol, the strongest one. During a woman’s childbearing years, the ovaries produce estrogen; as you transition into and through menopause, the ovaries gradually decrease their production.

This decline in estrogen is responsible for uncomfortable symptoms that include:

Some women experience mild symptoms, while others experience symptoms severe enough to significantly impair them in their daily lives, including at work and in their personal life.

Vaginal wall thinning

Estrogen levels influence many areas of the body. One of the roles of estrogen is to maintain the thickness of your vaginal wall. As your estrogen levels decline, your vaginal wall commonly begins thinning.

This often occurs in when women are no longer having a menstrual period. The thinning of your vaginal wall can make it easy for your vagina to become irritated, and it can make intercourse painful.

Vaginal dryness

Women going through menopause commonly complain of vaginal dryness. Estrogen plays a role of keeping the vagina lubricated, which is important to sexual arousal. Natural lubrication readies the vagina for intercourse, making it easier for the penis to enter without friction.

Because of low estrogen, the vagina can become dry, thereby increasing the friction experienced during intercourse. The lack of lubrication contributes to painful intercourse.  

Vaginal inflammation

Low estrogen can also increase the risk of vaginal inflammation, making women prone to vaginal irritation and itching. This can be particularly uncomfortable if itching strikes when you’re at work or in public.

The symptoms of inflammation may start as a mild tingling sensation and quickly escalate to an unbearable itch. Some women see their gynecologist with the assumption that they have a yeast infection, when in fact low estrogen is to blame for the bouts of vaginal itching.

Integrated approach

Dr. Melissa A. Delgado of The Chronic Pelvic Pain Center of Northern Virginia offers an integrated approach to women’s health care. Getting to the source of the problem, she may recommend a combination of diet and lifestyle changes, supplements, or traditional medication to help restore hormonal balance so that you feel your best.

For instance, soy foods contain substances called isoflavones that have weak estrogenic activity. Daily consumption of soy isoflavones has been shown to reduce menopausal symptoms, including vaginal dryness.

Dr. Delgado evaluates each patient individually to create a patient-centered, customized treatment plan. If you are concerned about your vaginal health, contact either of our offices in Annandale or Reston, Virginia. Call today and speak with our friendly staff to schedule an appointment, or use our convenient online booking tool.

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