Prior to menopause, the vaginal epithelium (skin) and the cervix produce moisture to maintain vaginal health. These secretions vary in texture and amount primarily based on blood levels of estrogen and progesterone. They can be clear and viscous or slightly milky and clumpy depending on timing of the menstrual cycle. Factors such as sexual arousal, stress or hormonal medications can increase or decrease these normal vaginal secretions.
With a pH of 4.5, the vaginal environment is able to support normal levels of bacteria and yeast that encompass the vaginal flora. A stable vaginal environment is required to maintain a symbiotic relationship between normal vaginal bacteria and yeast. When the vaginal ph changes or bacterial infections happen, this balance is lost, resulting in vaginal itching, burning, discharge, and other symptoms.
The most common vaginal infections are caused by yeast and a variety of bacteria. Stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, antibiotic therapy, and douching increase the risk of developing vaginal infections. Medical conditions such as diabetes or chronic skin can also promote vaginal infections.
Treatment of chronic vaginal infection requires identification of the offending organism. Once appropriate antibiotic therapy (when indicated) is completed, the normal vaginal environment must be restored to help avoid a recurrent infection.
After menopause, the entire vaginal environment changes, making some types of infection more common. Often, vaginal symptoms that seem to be caused by infection are actually caused by vaginal atrophy. Recurrent or chronic vaginal symptoms in a postmenopausal woman requires a completely different approach, and Elizabeth has extensive experience and expertise with vaginal problems unique to postmenopausal patients.
If you have experienced recurrent chronic vaginal symptoms or infection, schedule a consultation with Elizabeth.