The majority of post-menopausal women are uncomfortable talking about vaginal dryness and pain and are reluctant to seek medical help, according to results from a new international survey presented today at the European Congress on Menopause in London. Results from the survey show that over a third (39 percent) of post-menopausal women experience these symptoms of vaginal atrophy and 40 percent of women who have recently experienced vaginal dryness and pain said it interferes with their sex life, yet seven out of ten would not discuss the problem with their physician (only 30 percent of women would consider talking to a gynaecologist, and only 29 percent would consider talking to a GP).
This reluctance to discuss the problem means a quarter would wait for over a year before finally contacting their physician. Additionally, more than a third of those surveyed did not know there are local treatments available.
"The results of this survey really highlight my experiences of treating menopausal women and in my practice in Italy it is even worse. I see many women who have vaginal dryness and pain post-menopause, and the most alarming aspect is that they wait for so long, with only 17 percent of surveyed women taking a treatment to counteract these symptoms." said Dr. Rossella Nappi, Director of the Gynecological Endocrinology & Menopause Unit at the Maugeri Foundation, University of Pavia, Italy. "In addition to the physical pain that affects the women, there is an emotional impact on them and their partner as well, and it is difficult for physicians to break the ice on such a sensitive issue. There is definitely a taboo factor involved as the survey shows that, of those who have experienced vaginal dryness and pain, 47 percent would rather speak to a female physician than a male physician about the problem."
Local symptoms such as painful intercourse, vaginal dryness, itching, burning, and soreness are caused, like other menopausal symptoms, by the gradual decline of oestrogen production in ovaries.
Despite the survey highlighting that so many women delay seeking treatment, it does show that 67 percent of those who have had or are currently taking treatment experience improvements, including an improved quality of life, a return to normal sexual activity, and an improvement in the relationship with their partner.
"The survey results highlight the need for doctors to be pro-active in addressing this taboo head-on by discussing vaginal health with their patients. In addition, I also strongly urge women experiencing vaginal dryness and pain to discuss the issue, as ignoring these symptoms may also lead to more serious long-term urogenital problems. Vaginal dryness and pain don't need to be considered as a natural part of growing older and effective treatment options, such as vaginal oestrogen tablets, pessaries, creams or rings are available and can easily be prescribed by their healthcare professional." said Professor Henry Burger, Consultant Endocrinologist, Jean Hailes Foundation for Women's Health, Melbourne, Australia.