Introduction. Vaginal atrophy, which is associated with vaginal itching, burning, dryness, irritation, and pain, is estimated to affect up to 40% of postmenopausal women. Estrogens play a key role in maintaining vaginal health; women with low serum estradiol are more likely to experience vaginal dryness, dyspareunia, and reduced sexual activity compared with women who have higher estradiol levels.
Aims. The purpose of this review is to assess the prevalence and impact of dyspareunia, a symptom of vaginal atrophy, on the health of postmenopausal women and to evaluate treatment options using vaginal estrogens (U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] approved).
Methods. Relevant published literature was identified by searching Index Medicus using the PubMed online database. The search terms dyspareunia, vaginal estrogen, vaginal hormone therapy, vaginal atrophy, and atrophic vaginitis were the focus of the literature review.
Results. Current treatment guidelines for vaginal atrophy recommend the use of minimally absorbed local vaginal estrogens, along with non-hormonal lubricants or moisturizers, coupled with maintenance of sexual activity. Vaginal estrogen therapy has been shown to provide improvement in the signs and symptoms of vaginal or vulvar atrophy. Vaginal tablets, rings, and creams are indicated for the treatment of vaginal atrophy, and the FDA has recently approved a low-dose regimen of conjugated estrogens cream to treat moderate-to-severe postmenopausal dyspareunia. The use of low-dose vaginal estrogens has been shown to be effective in treating symptoms of vaginal atrophy without causing significant proliferation of the endometrial lining, and no significant differences have been seen among vaginal preparations in terms of endometrial safety.
Conclusion. Women should be informed of the potential benefits and risks of the treatment options available, and with the help of their healthcare provider, choose an intervention that is most suitable to their individual needs and circumstances. Krychman ML. Vaginal estrogens for the treatment of dyspareunia. J Sex Med 2011;8:666–674.