Dry time for most menopausal women

Local | Carain Yeung 26 Oct 2016

Two of three menopausal women suffer different levels of vaginal dryness, but most of them don't know what to do about it, a Hong Kong study has found.

"I felt that I wasn't normal," said Mary, who is in her early 50s.

She said she had been suffering from symptoms including the sensations of itching, burning and irritation. The problem greatly affected her sex life, and even daily activities, as she said she often had to go to the toilet, or scratch her private parts shielded by her handbag in public. She now uses a cream to alleviate the condition.

Commissioned by a medical company, AIG Global surveyed 400 women aged 41 to 55 in August this year. Results show 254 respondents, or 65.3 percent, have experienced at least one dryness symptom on the "outside" (vulva), and the "inside" (vagina) of the genital area.

The symptoms, apart from the sensation of dryness, include burning, itching, irritation, soreness and pain, and pain during intercourse.

It was so intolerable that the women had to "scratch" in different ways in public, and 46 percent would cross their legs often to ease the unpleasant feeling, and 53 percent said they has to go to the bathroom often.

Half of the respondents with the problem found it a taboo to talk about, and 26 percent find it too embarrassing to mention the condition - even to doctors - similar to the findings of a 2015 survey in Poland.

Certain misconceptions are also highlighted, as some respondents mistakenly thought vaginal dryness could lead to cervical cancer, venereal disease, and even death.

"Vaginal dryness is one of the many symptoms which can arise during menopause," said Iris Schmidts- Winkler, a Germany-based doctor with some 20 years of experience in dermatology and gynecology.

She said menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and sweating are better known, but not many people are aware of vaginal dryness, which is caused by a drop in the female hormone estrogen.

Younger women can also experience the problem, especially those who underwent uterine and ovarian surgery, or are pregnant, or breastfeeding, Schmidts-Winkler said.

If untreated, she said in the worse- case scenario, women may suffer from small tears or bleed easily in their genital area, as the dry skin becomes vulnerable.

She suggested using a hormone-free cream to relieve the discomfort.

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