An estimated 40 million women in the United States are between the ages of 40 and 58, the time of the menopausal transition. Although many women may be familiar with traditional menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings, some women may not know that other symptoms they are experiencing may also be due to menopause. For instance, many women may be unaware that vaginal changes can result from menopause. Symptoms include vaginal dryness, itching, and burning in and around the vagina. In addition, these changes may also make sexual intercourse difficult or
even painful for some women.

Vaginal Symptoms Associated With Menopause

During menopause, women no longer produce as much of the hormone estrogen. When estrogen levels start to drop, Vaginal walls become thinner less elastic and less lubricated, which can result in changes that can include irritation, dryness, itching, burning, and pain during sexual intercourse (a condition known as dyspareunia). Painful intercourse does not go away on its own and can even get worse over time.

Although these vaginal changes are a common symptom of menopause, experienced by almost half of all postmenopausal women. Some women may not associate them with menopause. As a result, some women do not discuss the condition with their healthcare professional. Further, women may be too embarrassed to bring these symptoms up with their healthcare professional, or they may believe that there is not a prescription treatment option available to provide relief.

Speaking With Your Healthcare Professional

A healthcare professional may not diagnose vaginal symptoms of menopause if a woman does not mention them, and thus cannot offer treatment options that can provide relief.

"Women should feel comfortable openly discussing their menopausal symptom experience, including the vaginal symptoms. Healthcare professionals are trained to understand all of the symptoms associated with menopause, even the so-called embarrassing ones," said Dr. Michael Krychman, medical director of sexual medicine at Hoag Hospital and executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine. "Women should not have to live with unnecessary discomfort or pain - schedule an appointment and initiate the discussion so you can work together with your healthcare professional to find a treatment option that is appropriate for you."

Available Treatments

When it comes to treating menopausal symptoms, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every woman experiences menopause differently. Depending on a woman's individual treatment goals and risk profile, a healthcare professional may recommend over-the-counter vaginal lubricants and moisturizers or prescription estrogen therapy.

Prescription estrogen therapy treats the underlying cause of painful intercourse by supplying estrogen directly to the vaginal tissue.

Take the First Step

Women should educate themselves on symptoms associated with menopause, including those affecting vaginal health, and make an appointment with their healthcare professional to initiate the discussion. To make the discussion easier, women can fill out the checklist included on this page and share it at their next visit.

Doctor Discussion Checklist

Vaginal dryness and painful sex are common symptoms due to menopause, but your healthcare professional can help identify treatment options that may be right for you based on your individual symptom experience.

Complete this checklist and share it with your healthcare professional.

1. Has it been at least 1 year since your last regular menstrual period?
Yes ⃞    No ⃞

2. Has your healthcare professional told you that you are menopausal?
Yes ⃞     No ⃞

For each of the statements below, please rate whether you experience them "always,"  "sometimes," or "never."

1. I experience vaginal dryness.
always ⃞     sometimes ⃞     never ⃞

2. I experience burning in and around the vagina.
always ⃞     sometimes ⃞     never ⃞

3. I experience itching in and around the vagina.
always ⃞     sometimes ⃞     never ⃞

4. Sexual intercourse is painful for me.
always ⃞     sometimes ⃞     never ⃞

5. I use lubricants for sexual intercourse.
always ⃞    sometimes ⃞     never ⃞