Despite a growing number of new treatments, the chronic condition of vaginal atrophy is still something many Americans are unfamiliar with or are uncomfortable talking about.
Yet new research suggests it’s a far wider reaching issue that actually impacts both men and women, as almost one-third of North American couples stop having sex entirely due to VA.
According to the data
Forty-five percent of postmenopausal women suffer from VA, and 58 percent of those women avoid intimacy due to the symptoms. Those can include burning, dryness, painful intercourse and urinary incontinence.
In a series of surveys, family physician and menopause specialist Dr. Vivien Brown and her colleagues sought to better understand how the condition affects women, men and their relationships.
The first survey involved 8,341 men and women across nine different countries.
North American couples reported a higher level of symptoms when compared with their European counterparts. Sixty-four percent of North American women said they experienced a loss of libido as a result of the condition.
The North American surveys also found the women suffering typically experienced feelings of unattractiveness and reduced confidence as a result.
The data is reportedly the first to explore how VA affects the men involved as well. The results appear this month in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society.
The condition, which causes vaginal walls to become more fragile or inflamed as women age, is due to a reduced level of estrogen. Most women surveyed said they viewed the side effects as “a normal part of getting older.”
What can be done
Brown warns issues of embarrassment prevent many patients from seeking medical advice on the condition, something physicians should take the lead on.
“The survey shows us that VA is negatively affecting women, their relationships and their overall quality of life,” she said. “As health care providers, it is our role to start the vaginal health conversation with our patients to ensure they are speaking with their partners and getting the proper treatment available.”
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