"Having sex felt like a carpet burn": Vaginal Atrophy will affect 1 in 2 women but most of us have never even heard of it

'Having sex felt like a carpet burn': Vaginal Atrophy will affect 1 in 2 women but most of us have never even heard of it

45% of older women have suffered from Vaginal Atrophy

Vaginal Atrophy is more commonly known as vaginal dryness

Vaginal Atrophy is usually caused by loss of oestrogen during menopause

70% of women with VA say their sex life has suffered as a result

Treatment is simple and includes HRT and topical oestrogen creams and gel

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UPDATED:

18:09 GMT, 18 October 2012

Happy World Menopause Day! There won't be a parade and there isn't a fun dress code but the World Health Organisation has designated October 18th as World Menopause Day in a bid to inform more women about menopause and its impact.

Our ageing population means that more women than ever are entering menopause and suffering the effects, often in silence because of embarrassment or a lack of information..

62-year-old Kathryn Colas suffered from Vaginal Atrophy in silence for years and said it almost destroyed her marriage

62-year-old Kathryn Colas suffered from Vaginal Atrophy in silence for years and said it almost destroyed her marriage

One of the most common and debilitating side effects of menopause is Vaginal
Atrophy (VA) – also known as vaginal dryness. A survey commissioned by
the British Menopause Society has revealed that 45% of women who have
reached the menopause have suffered from VA and 70% of those women say that their sex life has suffered drastically as a result.

VA can have disastrous consequences for sex lives, relationships
and marriages as well as the physical and mental health of women and although treatment is easy diagnosis remains tricky because it is such a taboo subject for many doctors and their patients.

Today on This Morning 62-year-old Kathryn Colas appeared on the sofa with the show's resident doctor Dr. Chris Steele to talk about the impact VA had on her life, and try and help raise awareness.

She said: 'It started in my 40s when using tampons became painful.

'Gradually sex was very painful, it was like a carpet burn.

'I was always too embarrassed to talk to my husband and he started to say it was like sleeping with a stranger. He felt very isolated and we started rowing about it.

'I was too embarrassed to go to the doctor too.

'I did my own research and found out that what I was feeling had a name, it was Vaginal Atrophy, I thought “that is me”!

'It is life changing, going from being a
jibbering idiot thinking there is something very wrong with me to finding out
that this is just a symptom of the menopause.

'And the remedy is so very simple. It is magic. It is transforming.

'My husband used to say “I just want my wife back,” I used to say “I just want my life back!”.'

Scroll down for video
The graphic by Novo Nordisk shows how Vaginal Atrophy affects both men and women, it was created as a result of a survey of 4000 women of menopausal age

The graphic by Novo Nordisk shows how Vaginal Atrophy affects both men and women, it was created as a result of a survey of 4000 women of menopausal age

VAGINAL ATROPHY: WHAT IS IT AND HOW TO TREAT IT from patient.co.uk

WHAT IS VAGINAL ATROPHY

Before
the menopause the skin and tissues around the vagina are kept supple
and moist by fluids and mucus. These are made by glands at the neck of
the womb. Oestrogen (the female hormone) affects these glands. Oestrogen
also affects the tissues in and around the vagina, causing the lining
of the vagina to be thicker and more elastic. Oestrogen also stimulates
the cells that line the vagina to produce glycogen, a compound which
encourages the presence of helpful bacteria which protect the vagina
from infection.

After the menopause the ovaries make less
oestrogen. The lack of oestrogen leads to thinning of the tissues around
the vagina and a reduction in the number of glands that make mucus. You
also lose some fat tissue from around the genital area. This may make
the area also look slightly different than before the menopause.

In
summary, the hormonal changes make the vagina shorter, less elastic and
drier. The genital skin also looks paler. These changes usually take
months or years to develop after the menopause and vary from woman to
woman. Atrophic vaginitis is the medical term for the condition when
these changes produce troublesome symptoms.

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THE SYMPTONS OF VAGINAL ATROPHY

The
changes described above can occur without causing any symptoms or
discomfort. However, some of the following symptoms may develop in some
women.

Pain when
you have sex: This may occur because the vagina is smaller, drier and
less likely to become lubricated during sex than before the menopause.
Also, the skin around the vagina is more fragile, and this can make the
problem worseDiscomfort : If the vulva or vagina is sore and redVaginal
discharge:There may be a white or yellow discharge. Sometimes this is
due to an infection. Infection is more likely if the discharge is smelly
and unpleasant.Itching:
The skin around the vagina is more sensitive and more likely to itch.
This can make you prone to scratching, which then makes the skin more
likely to itch, and so on. This is called an itch/scratch cycle which
can become difficult to break, and can be distressing.Urinary
problems: Atrophic vaginitis may contribute to various urinary
problems. This is because of thinning and weakening of the tissues
around the neck of the bladder, or around the urethra (opening for
urine). For example, urinary symptoms that may occur include an urgency
to get to the toilet, and recurring urinary infections.


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HOW TO TREAT IT

Not
all women have all of the above symptoms. Treatment may depend on which
symptoms are the most troublesome. Because the problem is mainly due to
a lack of oestrogen, it can be helped by replacing the oestrogen in the
tissues.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
This
means taking oestrogen in the form of a tablet, gel, implant or
patches. This may be the best treatment for relieving the symptoms, but
some women don't like the idea of taking HRT. There are advantages and
disadvantages of using HRT. See separate leaflet called 'Menopause and
HRT' for more detail.

Oestrogen creams
Sometimes
a cream, pessary or vaginal ring containing oestrogen is prescribed.
This restores oestrogen to the vagina and surrounding tissues without
giving oestrogen to the whole body. Usually the treatment is used every
day for about two weeks, and then twice a week for a further three
months. After this the effect of the treatment may be assessed by your
doctor. This treatment usually works well but the symptoms may recur
some time after stopping the treatment. Repeated courses of treatment
are often necessary. It is important to follow the instructions about
the amount of cream to use.

Lubricating gels
If
vaginal dryness is the only problem, or hormone creams are not
recommended because of other medical problems, lubricating gels may
help. There are two gels which are available in the UK that are
specifically designed to help the problem of vaginal dryness. They
replace moisture. They are Replens and Sylk. You can buy these from
the pharmacy and your pharmacist should be able to advise you.

VIDEO: Watch Kathryn talk about her experience of Vaginal Atrophy with Dr Chris Steele on This Morning

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