Objectives: Exploratory pilot study to determine the correlation between postmenopausal vulvovaginal symptoms and vaginal cytokine levels.
Methods: Postmenopausal women (n = 34) not using menopausal hormone therapy and presenting with or without symptoms of vulvovaginal irritation were screened. Each participant underwent a vaginal examination and screening for vaginitis. A cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) with sterile saline and a peripheral blood sample were obtained. Main outcome measures were assessed by Luminex® X-map method on the Bio-Plex® platform. Main outcome measures were cervicovaginal and serum interleukin (IL)-4, IL-5, IL-10, IL-12, IL-13, TNF-α, GM-CSF, MIP-1-alpha and RANTES level. Cervicovaginal cytokines were adjusted to total protein concentration [pg/mcg protein].
Results: Twenty-six postmenopausal women were enrolled (symptomatic: n = 15; asymptomatic: n = 11). There were no significant differences between groups: age, age at menopause, vaginal pH and all CVL and serum cytokines (IL-4, IL-5, IL-10, IL-12, IL-13, TNF-α, GM-CSF, MIP-1-alpha and RANTES). GM-CSF was the most abundant vaginal cytokine (symptomatic: 146.5 ± 165.6 pg/mcg protein; asymptomatic: 146.0 ± 173.5 pg/mcg protein; p = 0.99).
Conclusions: Postmenopausal vulvovaginal symptoms did not correlate with vaginal inflammatory marker. There was no difference in serum or CVL cytokines between symptomatic and asymptomatic postmenopasual women. Vaginal symptoms after menopause are not related to the vaginal cytokine changes associated with loss of estrogen.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01899612.
Keywords: Interleukin; menopause; serum cytokine; vaginal cytokine; vulvovaginal atrophy.