Hot flashes and night sweats are some of the symptoms often associated with menopause. But how does menopause affect sexual health?
Experts say menopause can put women at increased risk for a condition that can lead to pain during sexual intercourse. Mayo Clinic's Dr. Juliana Kling explains why and says there are safe and effective treatments.
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As reproductive years come to an end, estrogen levels drop. That can lead to one of the most common symptoms of menopause, vaginal dryness. "Postmenopausal women are at risk for developing something called the genitourinary syndrome (GSM), where there are changes to the vagina and the vulva that cause dryness. This can increase your risk of urinary urgency, as well as a risk of urinary tract infections.
Vaginal dryness can also lead to pain with intercourse. "I can't tell you how many women I see that just think pain with intercourse is a normal part of aging. I'm here to tell you that is not the case," says Dr. Kling. "You should not have pain with intercourse."
The good news is there are safe and effective treatments for vaginal dryness. "The low-dose vaginal estrogens can be used if you're just having vaginal symptoms, like dryness and urgency. Those are safe and won't increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clot or breast cancer," says Dr. Kling. "So even older women can consider starting those and really using those indefinitely." Other treatments include oral medications like ospemifene and over the counter vaginal moisturizers.
Dr. Kling recommends checking with your clinician to help determine which treatment is right for you.