Discussing OBGYN Care

3 Treatments To Manage Vaginal Atrophy

Vaginal atrophy causes the vagina to lose lubrication and become less elastic. This can occur when a woman is approaching or past menopause or it may be a complication associated with radiation treatments for gynecological cancers. There are several treatments that can reduce discomfort and restore normal sexual activity.

Estrogen Therapy

If vaginal atrophy is caused by low estrogen after menopause or because the ovaries have been removed, estrogen therapy might be appropriate. Low estrogen is responsible for many of the symptoms associated with vaginal atrophy like dryness, narrowing of the vagina, and inflammation. The options for estrogen therapy will depend on whether you have an elevated risk of vascular disease or reproductive cancers. Generally, women with these risks should avoid estrogen therapy. Estrogen therapy may be systemic or applied topically. Topical estrogen can be certain birth control, such as the ring, or creams inserted into the vagina that contain estrogen. Systemic estrogen is more appropriate for women who have symptoms beyond vaginal atrophy that are associated with low estrogen like mood disturbances, hot flashes, and night sweats.

Spot Treatments

For women who cannot take estrogen or those who would rather avoid hormones, spot treatments can be used to reduce specific effects of vaginal atrophy. Vaginal moisturizers are a good consistent treatment to reduce dryness. Moisturizers are creams or ovules that are inserted into the vagina every few days to keep the tissues hydrated. If painful sex is a problem, using lubricants during sex can make sex more comfortable and less likely to cause vaginal bleeding from irritated tissues. OTC water-based lubricants are one option or the use of condoms that contain an external lubricant can reduce discomfort.


Dilators are specifically for women who experience narrowing of the vagina. These instruments come in varying sizes and are inserted into the vagina daily. Your doctor can recommend which size is best to start. Gradually, the goal is to increase the size of the dilator until sex can resume comfortably or the vagina is close to its normal size. Dilators are not a permanent fix. They must be used regularly, otherwise, the vagina will return to its current, constricted size. Women who have vaginal issues related to radiation therapy are often recommended to use dilators to counteract scarring that might be caused by treatment.

Vaginal atrophy can be a painful condition that can also contribute to infections and urinary incontinence. There are several treatment options, often used in combination, that can reduce uncomfortable or painful effects of vaginal atrophy.

For more information, contact a vaginal atrophy service.