“Genitourinary syndrome of menopause is caused by
a decrease in estrogen production. Less estrogen
makes your vaginal tissues thinner, drier, less elastic…”.1

Umbrella
What may the Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause Umbrella include?

Depending on the Source (DotS) this Umbrella may include:

  • Atrophic Vaginitis
  • Genital Atrophy
  • Genitourinary/Genito-Urinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM)
  • Menopause Vaginal Dryness
  • Urogenital Problems
  • Vaginal Atrophy
  • Vaginal Dryness
  • Vaginal Symptoms
  • Vulvovaginal Atrophy (VVA)

Definition

What is the genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM)?

DotS the definition of GSM may vary. On page one in Vaginal Dryness the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) elaborate on:

“Bothersome symptoms of the vagina and vulva (outer lips of the vagina) increase during and after the menopause transition or may start several years after menopause. The decrease in estrogen with menopause is a major contributor to vaginal dryness, itching, burning, discomfort, and pain during intercourse or other sexual activity. Vaginal atrophy is the medical term that describes these changes. The genitourinary syndrome of menopause includes bothersome vaginal atrophy often combined with urinary symptoms”.2

In Vulvovaginal Symptoms After Menopause the Australasian Menopause Society (AMS) elaborate on:

  • “As women age they will experience changes to their vagina and urinary system largely due to decreasing levels of the hormone oestrogen
  • The changes, which may cause dryness, irritation, itching and pain with intercourse are known as the genito-urinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) and can affect up to 50% of postmenopausal women. GSM was previously known as atrophic vaginitis or vulvovaginal atrophy (VVA)”.3

In Mayo Clinic Q and A: Treatment for Vaginal Dryness for Menopausal Women the (United States) Mayo Clinic elaborate on:

“Vaginal dryness is common in women who are approaching menopause and those who have gone through menopause. Other related symptoms include vaginal and vulvar irritation; burning or itching; discomfort or pain with sexual activity; and urinary symptoms, such as more frequent or urgent urination, urge leak, and urinary tract infections. Together, these symptoms are referred to as “genitourinary syndrome of menopause,” or GSM. These symptoms occur in roughly half of menopausal women and are even more common in women with breast cancer”.4

Symptoms

What may be symptoms of GSM?

In Vaginal Atrophy: Symptoms & Causes – Symptoms the Mayo Clinic explain:

“Genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) signs and symptoms may include:

  • Vaginal dryness
  • Vaginal burning
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Genital itching
  • Burning with urination
  • Urgency with urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Light bleeding after intercourse
  • Discomfort with intercourse
  • Decreased vaginal lubrication during sexual activity
  • Shortening and tightening of the vaginal canal”.5

Cause

What causes GSM?

In Vaginal Atrophy: Symptoms & Causes – Causes the Mayo Clinic elaborate on:

“Genitourinary syndrome of menopause is caused by a decrease in estrogen production. Less estrogen makes your vaginal tissues thinner, drier, less elastic and more fragile”.6

Treatment

What are some GSM treatments?

In Vaginal Dryness: Treatment Options the NAMS elaborate on:

Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause

“The good news is that effective treatment options, such as nonhormone remedies or different forms of low-dose estrogen applied to the vagina are available. These can be combined for optimal symptom relief.

  • “Nonhormone remedies…
    • Vaginal lubricants…
    • Vaginal moisturizers…
    • Regular sexual stimulation…
    • Expanding your views of sexual pleasure…
    • Vaginal dilators…
    • Pelvic floor exercises…
  • Vaginal estrogen therapy…
    • An effective and safe treatment…
    • Government-approved low-dose vaginal estrogen products…
    • Standard doses of estrogen therapy…
  • Other prescription therapies
    • Ospemifene
    • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)…”.7

Painful Intercourse

How may painful intercourse be resolved?

The Mayo Clinic explain:

“… make an appointment to see your doctor if you experience painful intercourse that’s not resolved by using a vaginal moisturizer (K-Y Liquibeads, Replens, Sliquid, others) or water-based lubricant (Astroglide, K-Y Jelly, Sliquid, others)”.8

Vaginal Estrogen

How may vaginal estrogen be used?

In The 2022 Hormone Therapy Position Statement of The North American Menopause Society: Abstract published July 2022, the NAMS note:

“For bothersome genitourinary syndrome of menopause symptoms not relieved with over-the-counter therapies in women without indications for use of systemic hormone therapy, low-dose vaginal estrogen therapy or other therapies (eg, vaginal dehydroepiandrosterone or oral ospemifene) are recommended”.9

Can estrogen be placed directly into the vagina?

On page one in Deciding About Hormone Therapy Use published July 2022, the NAMS explain:

“If you are bothered only by vaginal dryness, you can use very low doses of estrogen placed directly into the vagina. These low doses generally do not raise blood estrogen levels above postmenopause levels and do not treat hot flashes. You do not need to take a progestogen when using only low doses of estrogen in the vagina. (The MenoNoteVaginal Dryness” covers this topic in detail)”.10

On page three in the Joint Position Statement By the British Menopause Society, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Society for Endocrinology on Best Practice Recommendations for the Care of Women Experiencing the Menopause first published 10 June 2022, Hamoda et.al. also note:

  • “Low-dose and ultra-low dose vaginal oestrogen preparations can be taken by perimenopausal and menopausal women experiencing genitourinary symptoms and continued for as long as required. All vaginal oestrogen preparations have been shown to be effective in this context and there is no requirement to combine vaginal oestrogens with systemic progestogen treatment for endometrial protection, as low-dose and ultra-low dose vaginal oestrogen preparations do not result in significant systemic absorption or endometrial hyperplasia”.11

Health Care Provider

What if I think I have GSM?

If you think you have GSM, it may be in your best interest to choose to talk to your health care provider about this.

In Vaginal Discomfort: Discomfort Not Directly Related To Menopause the NAMS explain:

“Because vaginal discomfort can arise from so many different sources, persistent symptoms of dryness, irritation, burning, itchiness, or pain should be evaluated by a healthcare provider to determine their cause”.12

On page two in Vaginal Dryness the NAMS also note:

“Note: Vaginal symptoms not related to menopause include yeast infections, allergic reactions, and certain skin conditions, so consult your healthcare provider if symptoms do not improve with treatment”.13

The AMS note:

  • “Unlike some menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, which may disappear as time passes; genito-urinary problems often persist and may progress with time. Genito-urinary symptoms are associated both with menopause and with ageing”.14

Health Topics A-Z

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Sources

Where may I find the Sources quoted?

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Sources

  1. Vaginal Atrophy: Symptoms & Causes – Causes. 17 September 2021. Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vaginal-atrophy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352288 Accessed: 04 November 2022
  2. Vaginal Dryness.  2018: 1. North American Menopause Society https://www.menopause.org/docs/default-source/for-women/mn-vaginal-dryness.pdf Accessed: 04 November 2022
  3. Vulvovaginal Symptoms After Menopause. Content Created September 2018. Australasian Menopause Society https://www.menopause.org.au/hp/information-sheets/376-vulvovaginal-symptoms-after-menopause Accessed: 04 November 2022
  4. Mayo Clinic Q and A: Treatment for Vaginal Dryness for Menopausal Women. 14 July 2021. Mayo Clinic https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-q-and-a-treatment-for-vaginal-dryness-for-menopausal-women/ Accessed: 04 November 2022
  5. Vaginal Atrophy: Symptoms & Causes – Symptoms. 17 September 2021. Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vaginal-atrophy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352288 Accessed: 04 November 2022
  6. Vaginal Atrophy: Symptoms & Causes – Causes. 17 September 2021. Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vaginal-atrophy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352288 Accessed: 04 November 2022
  7. Vaginal Dryness: Treatment Options. 2018: 1-2. North American Menopause Society https://www.menopause.org/docs/default-source/for-women/mn-vaginal-dryness.pdf Accessed: 04 November 2022
  8. Vaginal Atrophy: Symptoms & Causes – Symptoms: When To See A Doctor. 17 September 2021. Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vaginal-atrophy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352288 Accessed: 04 November 2022
  9. The 2022 Hormone Therapy Position Statement of The North American Menopause Society: Abstract. Published July 2022. The North American Menopause Society https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/Abstract/2022/07000/The_2022_hormone_therapy_position_statement_of_The.4.aspx Accessed: 04 November 2022
  10. Deciding About Hormone Therapy Use. Published July 2022. The North American Menopause Society https://www.menopause.org/docs/default-source/professional/menonote-deciding-about-ht-2022.pdf Accessed: 04 November 2022
  11. Hamoda, H., Mukherjee, A., Morris, E., Baldeweg, S. E., Jayesena, C. N., Briggs, P., Moger, S. Joint Position Statement By the British Menopause Society, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Society for Endocrinology on Best Practice Recommendations for the Care of Women Experiencing the Menopause. First Published 10 June 2022 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/20533691221104879 Accessed: 04 November 2022
  12. Vaginal Discomfort: Discomfort Not Directly Related To Menopause. North American Menopause Society https://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/causes-of-sexual-problems/vaginal-discomfort Accessed: 04 November 2022
  13. Vaginal Dryness: Note.  2018: 2. North American Menopause Society https://www.menopause.org/docs/default-source/for-women/mn-vaginal-dryness.pdf Accessed: 04 November 2022
  14. Vulvovaginal Symptoms After Menopause. Content Created September 2018. Australasian Menopause Society https://www.menopause.org.au/hp/information-sheets/376-vulvovaginal-symptoms-after-menopause Accessed: 04 November 2022
Topic Last Updated: 04 November 2022 – Topic Last Reviewed: 04 November 2022

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