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Resistance and Barriers to Local Estrogen Therapy in Women with Atrophic Vaginitis

Authors


Corresponding Author: Sheryl A. Kingsberg, PhD, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Departments of Reproductive Biology and Psychiatry, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA. Tel: (216) 844-5078; Fax: (216) 844-3718; E-mail: Sheryl.Kingsberg@UHhospitals.org

Abstract

Introduction.

Vaginal atrophy results from a decrease in circulating estrogen and is experienced by approximately 50% of postmenopausal women. Its symptoms affect multiple dimensions of genitopelvic health, sexuality, and overall quality of life. Nonhormonal over-the-counter treatments may provide temporary symptom relief, but the condition is progressive, and hormonal treatment may be warranted.

Aim.

The study aims to review the literature and discuss the impact of atrophic vaginitis and various treatment options, including the resistance and barriers to the use of local estrogen therapy for atrophic vaginitis. This article also aims to provide a greater awareness of the condition and the difficulties in communicating effectively with patients, and to provide strategies to help healthcare professionals acquire effective communication skills to initiate a candid dialogue with patients who may be suffering in silence and may benefit from therapy.

Methods.

This review was based on peer-reviewed publications on the topic of atrophic vaginitis and local estrogen therapy identified from key word searches of PubMed, in addition to landmark studies/surveys and treatment guidelines/recommendations on menopause available in the literature and on the Internet.

Main Outcome Measures.

The main outcomes are the impact of atrophic vaginitis and the various treatment options, including the resistance and barriers to the use of local estrogen therapy.

Results.

Minimally absorbed local vaginal estrogen therapy enables administration of estrogen doses much lower than systemic doses used for vasomotor symptoms. Local therapy is also the first-line pharmacologic treatment recommended by the North American Menopause and International Menopause Societies. Despite treatment options, the sensitive nature of the condition and embarrassment may prohibit or limit many women from openly discussing symptoms with healthcare professionals. Many are hesitant to initiate hormonal treatment because of safety concerns.

Conclusions.

Healthcare professionals should initiate and encourage frank and candid conversation about vaginal atrophy at annual visits and provide follow-up and treatment as needed.

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