Sex Improves With Vaginal Atrophy Treatment, Survey Finds

Yael Waknine

June 10, 2013

Local estrogen therapy (LET) may help postmenopausal women reclaim their sex lives, according to the results of a survey published online June 3 in Menopause.

An online poll of more than 1000 couples revealed that women using LET to combat vaginal atrophy/dryness reported having less painful sex (56%), more satisfying sex (41%), and an improved sex life (29%), according to the study by James A. Simon, MD, from the Women’s Health and Research Consultants, George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC, and colleagues. In addition, a large number of men (57%) claimed to be looking forward to sex as a result of the treatment.

Vaginal atrophy is the natural thinning and inflammation of the vaginal walls and lower urinary tract that occurs with decreasing estrogen levels as women age, often causing symptoms such as pain, burning, and bleeding during sex.

"This topic is incredibly important. I talk about it all day with women," Laura Corio, MD, a gynecologist in New York City, told Medscape Medical News in an interview. "Clearly, one of the worst problems is if they're having problems having sex: If it's painful, you're not going to want to do it."

The Clarifying Vaginal Atrophy's Impact on Sex and Relationships (CLOSER) survey, funded by Novo Nordisk, examined the emotional and physical effect of vaginal atrophy on 2013 married or cohabiting men and women in the United States and Canada. StrategyOne, an independent market researcher organization based in London, United Kingdom, conducted the survey between December 2011 and February 2012. To be eligible for the survey, women had to be aged 55 to 65 years, have stopped menstruating for 12 months or more, and have symptoms associated with vaginal atrophy.

Results showed that vaginal discomfort caused 58% of women to shy away from sex, with nearly two thirds (64%) reporting loss of libido. Self-esteem was also affected: one third of the women claimed they no longer felt attractive and had lost confidence in themselves as a sex partner.

The majority of men (78%) also made the connection between their partner's discomfort and loss of intimacy, and 30% reported a total cessation of sexual activity.

"There are a lot of local vaginal estrogens that we can use that will thicken the lining of the vagina and help with sex," said Dr. Corio, who was not involved in the study. "One thing that's important to remember is, if you can feel better and continue to have sex, it'll only get better with sex. Use it or lose it."

The study was supported by Novo Nordisk. Dr. Simon has served or is currently serving as consultant to or on the advisory boards of Abbott Laboratories, Agile Therapeutics Inc, Amgen Inc, Ascend Therapeutics, BioSante, Depomed Inc, Intimina by Lelo Inc, MD Therapeutics, Merck, Novo Nordisk, Novogyne, Pfizer Inc., Shionogi Inc, Slate Pharmaceuticals Inc, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Warner Chilcott, and Watson Pharmaceutical Inc; has received or is currently receiving grant/research support from BioSante, EndoCeutics Inc, Novo Nordisk, Novogyne, Palatin Technologies, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, and Warner Chilcott; has served or is currently serving on the speakers bureaus of Amgen Inc, Merck, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Novogyne, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, and Warner Chilcott; and is currently the chief medical officer for Sprout Pharmaceuticals. One coauthor has reported a financial relationship (lecturer, member of advisory boards, and/or consultant) with Bayer-Schering Pharma, Eli Lilly, Gedeon Richter, Merck Sharpe & Dohme, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer Inc., and Teva/Theramex. One coauthor has served as consultant to Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, and Shionogi and has also served on the advisory boards of Novo Nordisk. One coauthor is an employee of Novo Nordisk Inc. One coauthor has served on the speakers bureau of Novo Nordisk. Dr. Corio has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Menopause. Published online June 3, 2013. Abstract

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