Neither vaginal dryness nor a bacterial vaginal infection (bacterial vaginosis, or BV for short) are high on any woman’s bucket list, but unfortunately chances
are good that you may be confronted by both of them at some stage in your life.1,2

Vaginal dryness and other related symptoms such as vaginal irritation, vaginal burning or itching and painful intercourse can occur at any time during a
woman’s life cycle, but are most common after menopause. 1,3

Around 1 out of 2 women are affected by vaginal symptoms such as vaginal dryness during menopause.1

So, what causes it?

As women get older, their ovaries produce less oestrogen, thus the amount of oestrogen available in their bodies is less.⁴ Oestrogen maintains the vaginal
lining and normal vaginal lubrication that one would expect. A healthy vaginal lining helps to maintain the acidic environment in which the protective
Lactobacilli (good bacteria) thrive, thus helping to protect the vagina against infections. 5,6

Low oestrogen levels can result in a thinner vaginal lining, discomfort, and poor lubrication during sexual activity. In addition to this the thin vaginal lining no
longer maintains the acidic environment which can lead to harmful organisms “invading” and causing infections and inflammation.1,3,5

The vaginal symptoms such as itching, burning and painful urination often experienced during vaginal dryness may also be present with some vaginal infections such as thrush. This can make it difficult to distinguish whether the symptoms experienced are due to vaginal dryness or a vaginal infection. It is important to note that these symptoms are not typically present during bacterial vaginosis (BV) and are not usual signs of BV. 1,2,3,7

If there is unusual vaginal discharge, this may indicate that there may be a vaginal infection such as bacterial vaginosis (BV) or thrush. In the case of BV, the discharge will most likely be thin, whitish-grey and have a distinct fishy odour. 2,7 On the other hand, the vaginal discharge associated with thrush tends to be white, thick, and cottage-cheese like. 2,7

It is important to understand that bacterial vaginosis (BV) and thrush are not the only two causes of vaginal discharge. 2,7

If you feel uncertain about your vaginal health or discharge, please speak to your health care professional about your concerns.

Now for the good news. These  conditions can be treated. Symptoms of vaginal dryness can be relieved at the site of the issue, by vaginal lubricants or vaginal oestrogen preparations.3

Treatment for bacterial vaginosis (BV) targets the harmful bacteria that caused the infection and includes an antibiotic for a period of 5 to 7 days 8,9 Thrush is treated with antifungal preparations. 2

Here’s to a happy, healthy vagina!

DISCLAIMER: This editorial has been commissioned and brought to you by iNova Pharmaceuticals. Content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

Name and business address of the holder of the certificate of registration: iNova Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd,. Co. Reg. No. 1952/001640/07, 15e Riley Road, Bedfordview. Tel. No. 011 087 0000. www.inovapharma.co.za. For further information, speak to your healthcare professional. Further information is available on request from iNova Pharmaceuticals. IN3195/19

References:

  1. Portman DJ, Gass MLS, on behalf of the Vulvovaginal Atrophy Terminology Consensus Conference Panel. Genitourinary syndrome of menopause: new
    terminology for vulvovaginal atrophy from the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health and The North American Menopause
    Society. Menopause 2014;21(10):1-6
  2. Ries AJ. Treatment of Vaginal Infections: Candidiasis, Bacterial Vaginosis, and Trichomoniasis. J Am Pharm Assoc. 1997;NS37:563-9.
  3. Mac Bride MB, Rhodes DJ, Shuster LT. Vulvovaginal Atrophy. Mayo Clin Proc. 2010;85(1):87-94
  4. Sturdee DW, Panay N, on behalf of the International Menopause Society Writing Group. Recommendations for the management of postmenopausal vaginal atrophy. Climateric 2010;13:509–522
  5. Johnston S. Urogenital Concerns. JOGC FÉVRIER 2006:S33-S42
  6. Smith SB, Ravel J. The vaginal microbiota, host defence and reproductive physiology. J Physiol 2017;595.2:451–463
  7. Eckert LO. Acute Vulvovaginitis. N Engl J Med 2006;355:1244-52
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diseases Characterized by Vaginal Discharge [online] 28 January 2011 [cited 29 March 2018]; Available from URL: https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/2010/vaginal-discharge.htm
  9. Autralian STI Management Guidelines for use in primary care- Bacterial Vaginosis. http://www.sti.guidelines.org.au/sexually-transmissible-infections/infections-associated-with-sex/bacterial-vaginosis#auditable-outcomes. Accessed April 2018.