A Best Kept Secret…
If there is one best kept secret about menopause, it’s vaginal dryness.
Even though over half of all women between the ages of 51 and 60 are suffering, only about 7% are getting any treatment.
Why Don’t More Women Get Treated?
It’s a communication issue: Women don’t tell their doctors and doctors don’t ask their patients about it.
Surveys show that women think their doctors will be embarrassed (sometimes, but not usually, they’re right), and doctors don’t ask – doctors think it will take too long to discuss (sometimes it does, but it doesn’t have to if they simply acknowledge the problem and set up a future time for more discussion), or don’t have enough training (all too often this is sadly the case, especially if the main topic is problems in the bedroom).
What Can Be Done To Make Vaginal Dryness Better?
For those women who have summoned the courage to seek help, and for those doctors who are prepared to provide that help, what is the best treatment?
A study published in the journal Menopause compared a newer high tech laser treatment of the vagina called fractional CO2 Vaginal Laser Therapy with one of the oldest and simple treatments – vaginal (also called local) estrogen. Let me say that there are a lot of other treatments for vaginal dryness that I discuss in a prior article, so don’t think it has to be either one of these or the other. But this study looked at new versus old, high tech versus low tech, specialty treatment versus generalist treatment. Here’s what they did…
Fractional CO2 Vaginal Laser versus Vaginal Estrogen
The investigators studies women between the ages of 50 and 65 years who were clearly in menopause for at least one year. Half the women randomly received vaginal laser treatment; half randomly received vaginal estrogen. They then compared the improvement in the lining of the vagina (how much the vaginal lining thickened to look premenopausal at examination). They also asked how much sex improved – things like desire, comfort, arousal, and orgasm.
What Did the Study Find?
Both groups improved significantly. The vaginal tissues looked significantly better with both, though there was a slightly more positive outcome in the vaginal estrogen group. Sexual function significantly improved in both groups, and the doctors who examined the women thought the vaginal tissue in both groups appeared equally improved.
What’s the Take Home Message?
If you are among the more than half of women in menopause and you have vaginal dryness, painful sex, feeling chafed and uncomfortable even while walking, or having repeated urinary tract infections, TELL YOUR DOCTOR. It’s a common, treatable problem. In my #1 Best Selling Book, The Estrogen Fix, I explain how it’s never too late to use vaginal estrogen because the estrogen window in the vagina never closes. You can start feeling better if you just let your doctor know. And if he or she isn’t comfortable helping you, ask them who can.
My Two Cents…
The big advantage of vaginal laser therapy is that it isn’t estrogen. So if you are worried about taking estrogen, here’s one option (there are others). But the laser is an office procedure, requires about two or three sessions, costs nearly $2,000 for the series of treatments, and requires annual touch ups for about $500 each. Vaginal estrogen cream, pills, suppositories, etc. cost a fraction of that and after daily treatments for about 10 days, can be applied just twice a week…with equal or maybe even better outcomes. And if you read The Estrogen Fix, you’ll find out why for most women, even those with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, vaginal estrogen can still be safe to use. Whatever you decide, don’t suffer in silence!