Most gynecological problems which develop among older women occur because estrogen levels in the body are greatly decreased after menopause .
With decreased estrogen levels, the walls of the vagina become smooth, thin, and dry and are easily irritated. The acidity of the vagina also decreases, creating favorable conditions for growth of bacteria.
Irritation or infection of the vagina (atrophic or senile vaginitis) are the most common gynecological complaints among older women. The usual symptoms are itching, a pink tinged discharge, and pain during intercourse.
Sometimes urinary symptoms such as frequent urination or pain or burning on urination occur. If pain with intercourse is the only symptom, the use of a water soluble lubricant such as K-Y Jelly is recommended during intercourse.
Continued sexual activity helps counteract vaginal dryness. If other symptoms are present, the usual treatment is the application of a vaginal estrogen cream. The cream is used nightly at first; the dose is eventually reduced to twice a week.
If an infection is also present, an antibiotic cream is also prescribed. The cream is considered a safe alternative to oral estrogen therapy, which may increase the risk of developing cancer of the lining of the uterus.
However, some estrogen is absorbed into the body when the cream is used, and the long term consequences of this have not been established.