What Works For Painful Sex?

Most painful sex is due to the Genitourinary syndrome of menopause, and we now have many strategies that work for this condition. Estrogen works to treat the vaginal changes that occur in menopause. For some women there are only minor symptoms, perhaps dryness, change in odor, or change in discharge. Other women from this syndrome have bladder symptoms, recurrent urinary tract infections, stress incontinence, painful sex, irritating dryness, external symptoms, or itching. Women who have these symptoms in menopause, and now is more accurately called genitourinary syndrome (GUSM) of menopause.  It is commonly caused by the lack of estrogen as women age, and then secondarily this the thinning and deterioration of the surface layers of the vaginal walls, the vulva, the urethra, even the anal region due to these menopausal changes. For the most part your gyno can tell by an examination but are even pap tests to determine if this is the diagnosis, although your gyno can usually dignose with out this test. Sometimes cultures for infection, or microscopic evaluation of the tissue has to be done. Rarely biopsies have to be done to make sure we are treating what we think we are treating.

In the past only topical estrogen products were offered. Mow even non-medical CO2 fractional virtually painless office laser procedures have been gaining in popularity. They require 3 treatments 6 weeks apart, with almost 50% improvement after the first treatment. Over 90% of women will have almost complete relief of painful sex with this non-invasive therapy. MonaLisaTouch.

Generally gynos have recommended nonhormonal moisturizers if you have mild symptoms, and estrogen therapy as the treatment of choice for this condition,  and now we have the new painful sex treatment ospemifene. Ospemifene is a  selective estrogen receptor modulator that makes vaginal tissue thicker and less fragile, resulting in a reduction in the amount of pain women experience with sexual intercourse. Although gynos estimate that virtually all women remaining sexually active into their post menopausal years will have this complaint if not treated by hormone therapy, over half never even bring it up at a medical visit. Because the molecule has beneficial effects on the bone and potentially anti-estrogenic effects on the breast your gyno will be able to determine if this is the best for you given risks of medication as well. Of women with genitourinary syndrome in menopause so a great number of women stand to benefit by considering therapy.

Before therapy you need some evaluation: do you have an infection of the vagina, a bladder infection, or perhaps badder dysfunction that can be detected by urodynamics.  Vaginal estrogen treatments are effective for all of the issues that occur with this syndrome. The doses of estrogen given do not cause estrogen blood levels to differ from women without the vaginal estrogen treatment. Women need to be treated with oral medication for about 3 months for full effectiveness, and there is a warning that the medication can cause thickening of the lining of the uterus which would need to be evaluated. Women experiencing unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding need to see their gyno to see if they have this complication.The boxed warning for ospemifene also states the incidence rates of thrombotic and hemorrhagic strokes (0.72 and 1.45 per 1000 women, respectively) and the incidence rate of deep vein thrombosis (1.45 per 1000 women)."These rates are considered to represent low risks in contrast to the increased risks of stroke and deep vein thrombosis seen with estrogen-alone therapy," the FDA said. Minor side effects can include hot flashes or vaginal discharge.

Making the decision as to whether to take a systemic therapy or to use estrogen therapy is a complex one. Most women will try simple therapies first and do have to consider risks and benefits of alternatives.  Recent web articles have focused on the negative aspects of this therapy, implying that this risk is greater than other therapies.. These articles not only focus on potential risks, but clearly doesn't list percentages of these risks, nor does it do a good job of addressing benefits and or does it do a good job of discussing alternatives and their risks and benefits. As first line in the discussion with your gyno figure out if you indeed need treatment at all. Most women who take therapy are sexually active, but if you aren't and you plan to be, you are still a candidate for treatment. Osphena as a SERM (selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator) has potential benefits on breast tissue and bones. Find out if you have a baseline risk for for blood clots.  All the clinical trials were done without a progesterone, and the risks were very low of lining changes to the uterus. Some physicians may decide to put you on progesterone therapy if you are on Osphena. Even off hormones entirely women have a baseline risk of endometrial cancer. Estrogen therapy used locally is thought to be safer than systemic therapy,for atrophic changes of the vagina and vulva, yet it does have the same package insert risks listed in terms of blood clots and lining changes of the uterus, and thus it's a decision as to which will be best for an individual woman.. 


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