• Atrophic Vaginitis


    Atrophic vaginitis is characterized by thinning of the vaginal tissues and reduced elasticity. It is followed by redness, itching, and dryness of the vagina. Over time, there may be narrowing and shrinkage of the vaginal opening and the vagina itself.
    Nuclus factsheet image
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    A woman’s ovaries make estrogen until menopause, which happens at about 52 years of age. Before menopause, estrogen in a woman’s bloodstream helps keep the skin of the vagina healthy and stimulates vaginal secretions. After menopause, when the ovaries stop making estrogen, or after ovarian failure or removal, the walls of the vagina become thin, and vaginal secretions are lessened. Similar changes can happen to some women during breastfeeding, but in this case these changes are temporary and less severe. Disordered eating, excessive exercise, and therapies for breast and edometrial cancer may also result in atrophic vaginitis.

    Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of more severe symptoms of atrophic vaginitis include:


    Symptoms of atrophic vaginitis can range from minor to severe. They include:
    • Vaginal dryness
    • Vaginal irritation, itching, or burning
    • Vaginal pain
    • Problems with sexual intimacy because of painful intercourse


    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a doctor specializing in women’s reproductive health.
    Your vaginal fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
    • A test of the acid-base balance (pH balance) of the vagina
    • A swabbing of a small part of the vaginal wall


    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options for atrophic vaginitis include:
    • Oral estrogen therapy
    • Estrogen-containing vaginal creams or vaginal suppositories
    • Vaginal moisturizer or lubricant


    To help reduce your chance of atrophic vaginitis:
    • Ask your doctor if estrogen therapy is right for you.
    • Stay sexually active.
    • Use a vaginal lubricant.
    • Drink plenty of fluids each day.


    American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org

    Office on Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services http://www.womenshealth.gov


    The Canadian Women's Health Network http://www.cwhn.ca

    Women's Health Matters http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca


    Atrophic vaginitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115096/Atrophic-vaginitis. Updated February 9, 2015. Accessed March 14, 2016.

    Atrophic vaginitis. A treatable cause of vaginal dryness. Mayo Clin Womens Healthsource. 2002;6:6.

    Bachmann GA, Nevadunsky NS. Diagnosis and treatment of atrophic vaginitis. Am Fam Physician. 2000;61:3090-3096.

    Castelo-Branco C, Cancelo MJ, et al. Management of postmenopausal vaginal atrophy and atrophic vaginitis. Maturitas. 2005;52 Suppl 1:S46-S52.

    Nothnagle M, Taylor JS. Vaginal estrogen preparations for relief of atrophic vaginitis. Am Fam Physician. 2004;69:2111-2112.

    Rahn DD, Carberry C, et al; Vaginal Estrogen for Genitourinary syndrome of menopause: a systematic review. Obstet Gynecol. 2014 Dec: 124 (6):1147-56.

    Revision Information

    • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD
    • Review Date: 03/2017
    • Update Date: 04/29/2014
  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.