More than half of women experience vulvovaginal symptoms that significantly affect their emotions, lifestyle, and sex life after menopause, according to data published in Menopause.
However, despite the negative impact, the study also showed that many women are not seeking medical help.
The researchers polled 358 women at least 55 years of age from primary care offices and senior centers about their symptoms after menopause. The questionnaires included questions about vaginal and vulvar dryness and irritation as well as other pelvic problems like urinary urgency and urinary and fecal incontinence. They also asked whether the women had seen a gynecologist and what type of treatment, if any, they had received.
Vulvovaginal symptoms, including itching, burning, stinging, pain, irritation, dryness, discharge, and odor, were common. Of all respondents, 51.1% (95% CI, 45.9% to 56.3%) reported experiencing at least one symptom, with the most common symptom being dryness (35.8%).
Additionally, 10% reported experiencing at least 5 symptoms, and 6% reported experiencing all 7 symptoms.
The researchers also found that vulvovaginal symptoms had a significant impact on women’s lives. Of those who reported experiencing at least 1 symptom, 40.4% reported emotional impact and 32.8% reported lifestyle impact. Of the 89 women who were sexually active, 75.3% also reported a sexual impact.
Other problems were more common among women with vulvovaginal symptoms, including specific pelvic floor disorders like pelvic organ prolapse (P=.001), anal incontinence to solid stool (P=.001), urinary frequency (P=.02), urgency urinary incontinence (P=.001), and dysuria (P<.001).
Despite these health issues, 33% of women with symptoms had not seen a gynecologist in the last 2 years, according to a press release, and 83% were receiving standard treatment for genitourinary syndrome of menopause, including low-dose estrogen in the vagina through cream, pills, or rings.
“This study demonstrates that there is an unmet need for postmenopausal women to have regular gynecologic visits where questions can be asked about vaginal and urinary health problems and assessment can be made to determine the presence of vulvovaginal atrophy, urinary symptoms of urgency or incontinence, or pelvic floor disorders and offer FDA-approved safe and effective therapies,” the North American Menopause Society Executive Director JoAnn V Pinkerton, MD, NCMP, said in a press release. “Women need to tell their health care providers about their genitourinary symptoms, and providers need to ask.”