What happens when I have GSM?
Your ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing estrogen, leading to menopause, a natural progression that marks the end of your reproductive years. This creates a new balance of hormones in your body, and these reduced levels of estrogen lead to the slowing of many systems that supported fertility.
Vaginal atrophy is a common result. As the walls of your vagina lose moisture, you may experience discomfort or pain during sex, and you may experience light bleeding. Your body’s natural lubricants decrease, and burning sensations become common. The vaginal canal itself may become shorter and tighter.
However, there are also urinary symptoms that frequently occur, either on their own or in combination with vaginal issues, so the term “vaginal atrophy” is used less in favor of the more accurate GSM — genitourinary syndrome of menopause. You don’t need to experience every symptom of GSM to be diagnosed with it, but chances are you’ll have more than one.
What are the symptoms of GSM?
As well as the vaginal symptoms mentioned above, women with GSM may experience urinary issues such as:
- Burning sensations while urinating
- Urinary incontinence
- Increased frequency of urinary tract infections (UTI)
- Increased urinary urgency
What else causes GSM?
As well as naturally occuring menopause, other conditions can bring on GSM. You may start to experience GSM symptoms in the perimenopausal period, before full menopause begins. Undergoing a hysterectomy or removal of your ovaries induces surgical menopause, which may also lead to GSM symptoms.
Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or hormone treatment for breast cancer can also lead to GSM symptoms developing. If you smoke, your risk of GSM is higher, as it is for women who have never been pregnant or who no longer participate in sexual activity. Increased blood flow during sexual arousal helps keep GSM symptoms from starting.
How is GSM treated?
GSM is a progressive condition that won’t heal on its own. Symptom management is the only treatment that proves effective, since there’s no way to cure the condition, either.
Vaginal moisturizers and lubricants may relieve symptoms. Hormone therapy can also reduce symptoms and slow the progression of GSM. An exciting and long-lasting way to reduce the effects of GSM is through the MonaLisa Touch® laser system, a minimally invasive procedure requiring only short treatments that don’t interfere with your daily activities. Broadview OBGYN is pleased to offer MonaLisa Touch to its patients.