Canadian postmenopausal women need to spark the conversation with their doctor about vaginal dryness or pain during intercourse, say survey results

Discussion about vaginal atrophy and its symptoms can lead to effective management of the chronic condition, based on Canadian and international guidelines

TORONTO, May 31, 2011 /CNW/ - Canadian postmenopausal women shy away from asking their doctors about treatments when they experience symptoms of vaginal atrophy, a chronic condition, according to results of the international VIVA (Vaginal Health: Insights, Views & Attitudes) Survey, sponsored by Novo Nordisk.  Canadian women and their doctors, together, are encouraged to proactively discuss treatment options that are right for them, including low-dose estrogen therapies, as recommended in the guidelines from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) and other international bodies.

While women in Canada are most likely to associate menopause with hot flashes, night sweats and disrupted sleep, they are also aware of the urogenital symptoms, such as those associated with vaginal atrophy.  Key results of the survey, which included 500 Canadian participants, indicate that:

  • Of the 98 per cent of Canadian women that have experienced one or more symptoms of menopause, half (50%) have indicated they have experienced vaginal related symptoms
  • Among these women, vaginal dryness (88%) is the most common symptom experienced, followed by pain during intercourse (49%).  Approximately half of sufferers describe their symptoms as 'moderate' (46%), while 40 per cent describe them as 'mild' and thirteen per cent describe them as 'severe'

Findings from the VIVA Survey help to illustrate postmenopausal women's silence about vaginal atrophy.  The survey results found that:

  • When asked what condition they think they would have if they experienced dryness, itching, burning, soreness in their vagina or pain during sex, only seven per cent of women said it was vaginal atrophy, highlighting the need for more awareness of the condition
  • For many women, the subject is too "off limits" to be discussed with personal contacts. More women would talk to their healthcare professional about vaginal atrophy than to friends or family (82% cf. 49% friends and family)

"It is important for postmenopausal women to recognize the impact that vaginal atrophy can have on all aspects of their health. This is not a problem that gets better with time; treating the underlying cause is pivotal to managing the condition," said Dr. Jennifer Blake, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist in Chief, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.  "Both Canadian and international guidelines on the treatment of vaginal atrophy recommend low-dose local estrogen as safe and effective therapy for the chronic condition. It is important to open the lines of communication between women and their health care providers and determine if this treatment option is right for them."

New low-dose treatment options for vaginal atrophy can effectively treat the chronic condition for Canadian women.  Among different therapies for vaginal atrophy, the VIVA Survey found that:

  • Forty-three per cent of postmenopausal women would consider a form of local estrogen therapy for the treatment of vaginal atrophy
  • Twenty-three per cent of women maintain a positive association with local estrogen therapy, and one-third of women associate with something negative (35%).  However,  these negative perceptions with local estrogen therapies are much lower than those associated with hormone replacement therapy, or HT

Left untreated, vaginal atrophy can have a significant and far-reaching impact on women's lives overall.  Results from the VIVA Survey illustrate that:

  • Eight in 10 (82%) post-menopausal women in Canada said vaginal atrophy would have a negative impact on various aspects of their life. Sexual intimacy stands out as the most likely to be affected (72%), followed by their ability to have a loving relationship (39%) and their overall quality of life (30%)
  • Many women think vaginal discomfort would make them feel old (33%) and would have negative consequence on their self-esteem (30%)

"Among the changes that occur at menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats and disrupted sleep, patients should also consider vaginal atrophy as an important concern at this time in their lives," said Maureen McGrath, registered nurse that specializes in female sexual health.  "The condition can not only have an impact on a woman's overall health, but also sexual intimacy, relationships and self-confidence.  I hope that these survey results encourage women to talk to their doctors about vaginal atrophy, as well as effective treatment of the underlying cause of the condition with a low-dose local estrogen therapy rather than just addressing the symptoms with over-the-counter medications."

NOTES TO EDITORS
About the VIVA (Vaginal Health: Insights, Views & Attitudes) Survey
The VIVA survey was commissioned by Novo Nordisk and conducted by Strategy One. The survey was conducted online in August 2010, with results received from 3,520 female respondents aged 55-65 years old from Great Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Canada, and the United States of America. The aim of the survey was to evaluate the attitudes of postmenopausal women on the impact of vaginal atrophy (VA) and menopause on different aspects of their lives and understand the barriers and challenges to seeking advice and treatment.

About Vaginal Atrophy
Vaginal atrophy, a condition where the vaginal walls become thin, fragile and inflamed due to a reduction of estrogen,1 is an uncomfortable but common problem for menopausal and postmenopausal women, and can begin to affect women as young as their mid-forties.2  Common symptoms include burning (while urinating or not), itching, dryness, vaginal irritation, painful intercourse, light bleeding after sex, a clear or watery discharge, urgency with urination, urinary incontinence (leaking of urine), and frequent urinary tract infections.

For more information about vaginal atrophy, visit TheBigOw.ca.

About Novo Nordisk Canada Inc.
Novo Nordisk is a healthcare company and a world leader in diabetes care and biopharmaceuticals.  Novo Nordisk manufactures and markets pharmaceutical products and services that make a significant difference to patients, the medical profession and society.  Novo Nordisk's business is driven by the Triple Bottom Line:  a commitment to economic success, environmental soundness, and social responsibility to employees and customers. For more information, visit www.novonordisk.ca.

References:
_________________________
1 Mayo Clinic: Vaginal Atrophy Definition. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vaginal-atrophy/DS00770 Last accessed July 2010
2 Urogenital Health. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada.2009;31(1):S27.


SOURCE Novo Nordisk Canada Inc.

For further information:

or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson, please contact:
Laine Jaremey
MSL Canada
T:  416-847-1321
E:  laine.jaremey@mslgroup.com


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