PICTURE: A Copperbelt Girl in Ndola. Picture published with her permission.

It’s a painful condition that can leave you itching, even burning down there — and no, it’s not a s*xually transmitted infection!

Just when you thought you had enough to worry about after realizing having a “depressed” v@gina is a thing, women are also at risk of v@ginal atrophy.

V@ginal atrophy is a common but treatable condition that causes the v@ginal wall to thin.

And while it can be a problem for women of any age, it’s more likely to affect women who are going through, or have been through, menopause.

This is because the body produces less estrogen than normal, which has an effect on how the v@ginal wall behaves.

V@ginal atrophy can also occur in women who have been treated for cancer, especially in those who have had hormone treatment for breast cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Common symptoms include discharge, burning, itching, difficulty peeing and pain during s*x.

This might seem like enough to put you off having s*x for good, but regular orgasms — from your partner or a bit of self-love — can actually ward off the nasty symptoms.

And the key is the increased blood flow to your nether regions when you climax — it works almost like a “workout” down there.

Louise Mazanti, a London-based s*x therapist, said: “It is very important that we have a healthy s*x life with a partner or with ourselves.”

“People very often say, ‘I don’t have a s*x life because I don’t have a partner.’”

“But forget about that and have a s*xual relationship with yourself.”

“It’s about using massage and touching the tissue so that it becomes alive, the blood flows and the tissue becomes elastic.”

“It is really about exercising the tissue

Increasing blood flow increases oxygen supply to the v@gina, which means it is less likely to become inflamed, thin or dry.

According to Mazanti, if cells are not getting enough oxygen, they cannot eliminate waste from the tissue, which can cause inflammation that leads to problems such as v@ginal atrophy.

A buildup of toxins can also stop vital nutrients from getting to the cells, which can leave the tissue slightly weaker and thinner.

Mazanti also said losing the ability to have s*x is not just a physical problem, it can have some serious side effects on a person’s mental health.

She added: “When your ability to have s*x and your desire to have s*x decreases, it is a massive change in identity.”

“You start to question ‘who am I now if I am not the s*xual woman I used to be?’”

“It can cause depression and an identity crisis and deep consideration of an existential nature.”

What are the main symptoms of v@ginal atrophy?

Depending on how severe the condition is, you may experience a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Dryness
  • Burning sensation, particularly when you pee
  • Discharge
  • Itching
  • Urgency to pee
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Incontinence
  • Light bleeding after s*x
  • Discomfort during s*x
  • Dryness during s*x
  • A shortening or tightening of the v@gina

What causes the condition?

V@ginal atrophy is generally caused by a decrease in the production of the female s*x hormone estrogen.

Estrogen is the main hormone that regulates a woman’s menstrual cycle and controls ovulation.

It is also responsible for thickening the v@ginal wall and causes it to release mucous once a girl hits puberty.

So if you stop producing estrogen, the walls of your v@gina can become thin and dry.

V@ginal atrophy is most common in women who have gone through the menopause, but certain cancer treatments and hormone treatments can also cause it.

Women who are smokers, who have never had a v@ginal birth or do not have s*x or pleasure themselves are also more at risk.

Smoking affects your blood circulation, resulting in the v@gina and other tissues not getting enough oxygen.

It also reduces the effects of estrogen.

How can v@ginal atrophy be treated?

V@ginal moisturizers and lubricants can be used to treat dryness and help improve your s*x life.

You may have to apply moisturizer every two to three days but the effects usually last longer than lube.

A lubricant is used mainly to make s*x easier and more enjoyable.

If symptoms don’t improve, over-the-counter estrogen therapy may be recommended.

Creams can be inserted into the v@gina daily to restore the tissue.

Estrogen tablets may also be recommended to help restore the body’s natural levels.