Vaginal Problems: Movie: Looking at Vaginal atrophy and the Closer study.
70% OF BRITISH POST-MENOPAUSAL WOMEN ADMIT THEIR SEX LIVES ARE SUFFERING DUE TO HIDDEN SYMPTOM OF MENOPAUSE*
- Vaginal atrophy, a condition that will affect almost one in every two (45%) women1, has a greater impact on intimacy in Britain compared to other countries, according to new research announced today2.
- Of all the countries surveyed, post-menopausal women in Britain were the most likely to say that they have lost confidence in themselves as a sexual partner (41% cf. 27% overall),3,4 that they feel depressed about their sex life (30% cf. 22% overall)3 and that they have lost their youth because of the condition (55% cf. 41% overall)2.
- Communication barriers are greatest between British couples, with one in five British men being the least comfortable discussing vaginal atrophy3,4. Previous studies have demonstrated how vaginal atrophy is considered to be a taboo subject, even between women and their doctors1.
- Despite the recognised beneficial effects of local oestrogen therapy for vaginal atrophy, British women are 50% less likely to receive treatment, compared to their counterparts in Europe and North America3.
Crawley, UK, 18 October 2012 - Despite British women being the most likely to report that their sex lives are suffering due to a condition called vaginal atrophy2 – an under-recognised symptom of the menopause that will affect almost half of all women1 – they are 50% less likely to have received treatment, compared to women in Europe and North America.3 This is according to a first-of-its-kind study, known as CLarifying vaginal atrophy’s impact On SEx and Relationships (CLOSER), which has been announced today.
The CLOSER study has revealed that two thirds of British post-menopausal women (67%) and their partners (65%) agree they are having less sex because of vaginal atrophy2 - a common, chronic (long-term, ongoing) post-menopausal condition caused by a drop in oestrogen levels5. Symptoms of vaginal atrophy include vaginal dryness, itching and painful intercourse5, and the condition can have a significant impact on quality of life. If left untreated, vaginal atrophy can lead to serious long-term urogenital problems, including incontinence6.
“The CLOSER study offers the first opportunity to examine the real impact that vaginal atrophy is having on the intimate lives of post-menopausal women and their partners”, explains Dr Heather Currie, Associate Specialist Gynaecologist at the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, MD of Menopause Matters Ltd and Honorary Secretary of the British Menopause Society. “Most people have not heard of this condition, but vaginal atrophy is one of the most common symptoms of the menopause, and also the simplest to treat. The challenge remains that vaginal health in older women is still a taboo subject, and even doctors find it difficult to talk to their patients about it”.
British women are most likely to worry about the future of their sex life (40% cf. 29% overall)
Compared to the women in Europe and North America who were included in the CLOSER study, women from the UK were among the most likely to say that vaginal atrophy had led to the end of their sex life as they know it (39% cf. 30% overall)2. The main reason given for avoiding intimacy was pain during sex, with 61% of British women also saying that sex was less satisfying for them personally2.
Vaginal atrophy is more likely to have a negative impact on British women’s self-esteem compared to women in other countries, with British women being most likely to have lost confidence as a sexual partner (41% cf. 27% overall)3,4 and to feel depressed about their sex lives (30% cf. 22% overall)3.
Communication barriers about vaginal health are greatest between British couples
One in five British men are uncomfortable with discussing vaginal atrophy, more than in any other country3,4, and as many as one in 10 men (10%) have felt sexually frustrated and thought about other women2. In addition, according to the CLOSER data, one in five men (22%) reported that vaginal atrophy has aggravated their own sexual health issues, such as erectile dysfunction2.
“Despite the considerable impact on themselves, their partner and their relationship, three quarters of women with vaginal atrophy will not seek medical help1”, says Dr Nick Panay, Consultant Gynaecologist, Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital, London, and Chairman of the British Menopause Society. “In addition, despite British women experiencing the benefits of local oestrogen treatment for vaginal atrophy in the CLOSER study, they are in fact 50% less likely to access these treatments compared to their peers in other countries”.
British women who had tried local oestrogen treatment for vaginal atrophy reported beneficial effects such as less painful sex (58%), more satisfying sex for their partner (42%) and themselves (40%), feeling closer and less isolated from their partner (33%), having sex more often (27%), and saying that they now look forward to having sex (26%)2; however, just 21% of British women have tried local oestrogen treatment3. Instead, British women were among the most likely to self-treat using over-the-counter (OTC) lubricants and moisturisers (68% cf. 58% overall)2, but these measures only provide temporary relief of symptoms and do not treat the underlying condition.
Once vaginal atrophy has been diagnosed, many healthcare professionals may recommend oestrogen treatments that are available in systemic and local forms5.
Local oestrogen, the preferred treatment according to The International Menopause Society5, is applied directly to the vagina while, in systemic hormone therapy, the hormones travel around the entire body5. Vaginal atrophy is a chronic condition, and treatment needs to be continued to maintain the benefits5.
“CLOSER has shown that vaginal atrophy is clearly still considered a taboo subject in Britain – with couples in the UK reporting greater barriers in communication than anywhere else in the world. Many women are not seeking treatment because they are either too embarrassed to talk to their partners and/or healthcare provider, or they simply accept it as a natural part of ageing that can’t be treated”, continues Dr Currie. “It is important for couples to recognise the impact vaginal atrophy is having on their relationship and to be aware that there are effective treatments available from their doctor”. The CLOSER data was recently presented at the 22nd British Menopause Society Annual Conference in Winchester.
* 70% OF BRITISH POST-MENOPAUSAL WOMEN ADMIT THEIR SEX LIVES ARE SUFFERING DUE TO HIDDEN SYMPTOM OF MENOPAUSE - based on women with vaginal atrophy avoiding intimacy
1. Nappi RE, Kokot-Kierepa M. Vaginal health: Insights, Views and Attitudes (VIVA) – results from an international survey. Climacteric. February 2012;15:36-44.
2. Novo Nordisk Data on file. Vaginal discomfort: insights, views & attitudes. Women and partners survey: overall report (VIVA Study), 2012.
3. Domoney C, Currie H, Panay N, Maamari R, Nappi RE. The CLOSER Survey: Implications of vaginal discomfort in postmenopausal women and their partners. British Menopause Society (BMS), 22nd Annual Conference, July 2012.
4. Nappi RE, Maamari R, Simon J. The Partners’ Survey: Vaginal discomfort - insights, views & attitudes: The Viva Study. Poster presented at the 9th European Congress on Menopause and Andropause (EMAS), Athens, Greece, 28-31 March 2012.
5. Sturdee DW, Panay N. Recommendations for the management of postmenopausal vaginal atrophy. Climacteric. 2010;13:509–522. 6. Hextall A. Oestrogens and lower urinary tract function. Maturitas. 2000;36:83–92.
Download a checklist of vaginal atrophy symptoms you can print out and take to your GP or nurse to help you start a discussion: PDF (47K) or Word (47k)