'Moisturize My What?'

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"I have atrophic vaginitis. Is this an infection?"

Atrophic vaginitis, or vaginal atrophy, is not an infection but a result of declining hormone levels most often seen at menopause. The delicate tissues of the vagina become thinner and drier. Low estrogen can also cause the vagina to narrow and shorten, or atrophy. These changes can lead to irritation, inflammation, and painful intercourse. Here's what you can do.

Treat the Cause
Replacing lost estrogen will treat the underlying cause of vaginal atrophy by increasing the natural moisture of the vagina as well as bloodflow, making it easier for the vagina to lubricate itself.

Oral estrogen replacement therapy will treat vaginal atrophy as well as other symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes. But you can also just treat the problem "locally" with these forms of estrogen:

Vaginal estrogen creams such as Estrace, Premarin, and Ogen or the newer tablet called Vagifem are inserted into the vagina and absorbed directly by the vaginal tissues.
A vaginal ring called Estring is worn in the vagina and releases a continuous dose of estrogen lasting for 3 months.
Treat the Symptoms
If you want a hormone-free solution, try an over-thecounter personal lubricant or vaginal moisturizer. Lubricants are used during sex, and coat the vagina. Exampies include Astroglide and K-Y Jelly. (Orgasms naturally help lubricate the vagina by increasing blood supply.)

Vaginal moisturizers, on the other hand, act directly on vaginal tissue to replenish and maintain moisture. Their effects typically last for days, and they are most effective when used on a regular schedule. Brands include Replens, Vagisil Intimate Moisturizer, K-Y Long Lasting Vaginal Moisturizer, and Silken Secret Vaginal Moisturizer by Astroglide.

PHOTO (COLOR): Relief for this "delicate" problem comes in many forms"

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By Mary Jane Minkin, MD

with Toby Hanlon, EdD

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