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Study Looks at the Changing Bacterial Mix After Menopause

The mix of bacteria in the vagina changes as women go through menopause. And a certain mix is typical after menopause in women who have vulvovaginal atrophy (VVA), a common cause of vaginal dryness and sexual pain, finds a team at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland. They suspect these bacteria may play a role in causing VVA and that personalized probiotics or other ways to manage the bacterial mix might prevent or treat VVA in the future. Their study was published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society.

Lubricants with intercourse or vaginal moisturizers are considered first-line therapies for women with VVA symptoms. And when VVA is moderate to severe, low-dose estrogen in the vagina is the therapeutic standard. But these therapies have drawbacks. Some women, including certain cancer survivors, cannot use vaginal estrogen, and some women don't wish to use hormones. On the other hand, some lubricants or moisturizers may have detrimental effects on the bacterial mix or the vaginal lining or may even increase a woman's susceptibility to infction. So, alternative treatments such as probiotics will certainly be welcome.

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