Vagifem (estradiol) is primarily used by women who are experiencing atrophic vaginitis, or vaginal atrophy, resulting from chronically low levels of estrogen. Atrophic Vaginitis usually occurs as a result of menopause or reproductive surgery which has interfered with estrogen production.
Vagifem is a localized treatment, meaning it administers estrogen to vaginal tissues, and will only minutely influence hormone levels elsewhere in the body.
Treating Atrophic Vaginitis with Vagifem
Estrogen is the hormone largely responsible for the development and health of the reproductive system in women; the female equivalent of testosterone. Low levels of estrogen can produce a number of uncomfortable vaginal side effects:
- Dryness, itching, burning or other irritation
- Pain or bleeding during intercourse
- Painful or urgent urination
Raising estrogen levels will usually reverse these symptoms. Vagifem vaginal tablets, or suppositories, are inserted directly into the vagina, where the medication is absorbed by surrounding tissues. This localized effect supplies the tissues with estrogen while having little impact on estrogen levels elsewhere in the body, which reduces the risk of many of the serious side effects associated with estrogen replacement. Estrogen from this treatment will also not accumulate over time.
Each vaginal tablet comes in an individually wrapped, single-use applicator for easy administration.
Most women are prescribed 10 mcg of the medication to start with, taken once a day for 2 weeks, then tapered off to twice a week. In some cases dosages may be higher, up to 25 mcg. As with all hormone therapies, results are best if the medication is administered at the same time and on the same days.
Many women notice improvements just days after beginning treatment, but the full effects may not be felt for several weeks.
Duration of treatment will vary by individual circumstances; many women find hormone levels stabilize on their own after the body adjusts to menopause or surgery, while others will need to supplement estrogen on a long-term basis. Important Warnings
Some types of cancer, particularly breast and uterine cancers, are stimulated by estrogen. The hormone may also contribute to the formation of blood clots. Vagifem should not be used by women who currently have, have a history of, or are at high risk of developing, these types of cancers or blood clots. Women who aren't at particular risk may be given another hormone, progestin
, along with Vagifem to reduce the risk. Women who have had a hysterectomy are also at reduced risk.
Estrogen can disrupt reproductive system development in babies or young children; be sure to keep the medication out of reach. Vagifem should not be used by pregnant or nursing women, or women actively trying to become pregnant.
Because estrogen has such a big impact on so many bodily functions it should be used with caution in women who have any major medical issues, such as asthma, heart disease, or liver failure. If it is being taken, regular doctor visits should be scheduled to monitor response to treatment.
In otherwise healthy women, side effects are rare and typically mild:
- Appetite changes
- Swollen, tender breasts
- Headache or dizziness
- Spotting or menstrual changes
- Acne or skin changes
- Swelling of lower extremities
- Yeast Infections
Vagifem is known to interact with other medications and even supplements. Though unlikely to produce a dangerous side effect, interactions may cause treatment with either Vagifem or the other medication may be less effective. Check with a doctor or pharmacist to be sure medications are safe to use together.