Sometimes, when women first experience vaginal irritation or pain during intercourse, they choose to use commonly available over-the-counter remedies, such as vaginal lubricants and moisturizers. While these products can provide some temporary relief for vaginal dryness during intercourse, they don’t treat its underlying cause—they can’t replenish your vagina’s estrogen. Over-the-counter remedies also don’t treat other common vaginal symptoms, such as painful urination or painful intercourse.
Local estrogen therapy.
Local estrogen therapy (LET) applies estrogen directly to the vagina by means of a insert (Vagifem® [estradiol vaginal inserts] 10 mcg), cream, or ring. LET limits the amount of estrogen that circulates throughout the body. Learn more about local estrogen therapy. If you are taking systemic hormone replacement therapy and continue to have uncomfortable vaginal symptoms, talk to your doctor. Even locally applied forms of estrogen may allow a small amount of estrogen to get into the blood and travel to the rest of the body.
Systemic hormone replacement therapy.
The symptoms of menopause itself—from hot flashes and night sweats to vaginal symptoms and others—are sometimes treated with estrogen, or a combination estrogen and progestin (another hormone). This treatment is taken as an oral insert, patch, gel, emulsion, spray, or injection.
How the treatments are different.
Talk with your health care provider about the treatment options available based on your family and medical history and your personal preferences. Ask about the different types of treatment and what might work best for you. You can also read more about local estrogen therapy options.