Despite a dubious reputation, hormone therapy could be the answer for post-menopausal women who experience vaginal dryness and painful intercourse, according to a new study.|
Vaginally administered estrogen (VE) does its job where it's delivered without the telltale, whole-body side effects that synthetic hormones are known for such as weight gain and moodiness, say the researchers.
They had set out to determine whether VE is the answer for women with urogenital problems such as vaginal discomfort and urinary incontinence despite the results of a study called the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) that questions the safety of synthetic hormones.
Cardiovascular events and breast cancer are among the consequences, according to the WHI study, whose 2002 publication was followed by a slump in hormone therapy usage.
In the study, 310 women from New York were surveyed and the research team concluded that the benefits of VE are free of medical consequences.
Even those using systemic, or whole-body, hormones often demonstrate a need for VE, say the researchers.
Women turn to VE after menopause to combat sexual dysfunction whether or not they use other types of hormone therapy, and those who do not tend to have a higher quality-of-sex-life if they use VE, according to the new study, which was published in the journal Menopause.
"We know that estrogens play a key role in maintaining vaginal health," said Dr. Wulf Utian, MD, PhD, DSc., the founder and director of the North American Menopause Society.
Women whose menopause is accompanied by discomfort in that region are most likely to report vaginal dryness, followed by irritation, itching, abnormal discharge and difficulty urinating.
"Not only do they [VE] assist with lubrication, but some studies also show them to be effective in preventing urinary tract infections," says Dr. Utian. "That's why women need to have more estrogen options and be educated on their benefits and potential risks."
While many studies have been conducted about the health risks of using whole-body hormones, there are fewer examples of long-term research on using VE.
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