Genitourinary syndrome of menopause: a systematic review on prevalence and treatment

Menopause. 2021 Mar 15;28(6):706-716. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001752.


Importance: Genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) consists of genitourinary tract symptoms that occur due to physical changes caused by estrogen concentrations decline after menopause. Unlike menopausal symptoms, which subside with time, GSM symptoms persist throughout a woman's life.

Objective: This article aimed to systematically review the literature to investigate the prevalence of GSM and its treatment.

Evidence review: The search was conducted in the electronic databases PubMed, CENTRAL, and EMBASE until October 2020. Eligible for the systematic review were studies and surveys conducted via questionnaires or medical interviews evaluating the existence of GSM symptoms with or without gynecological examination in postmenopausal women or women >40 years of age.

Findings: After the application of predefined inclusion/exclusion criteria, 27 studies were included in the systematic review. The prevalence of GSM-related symptoms, such as vaginal dryness, irritation, itching, and dyspareunia, ranged from 13% to 87%. The use of GSM-specific treatment varied from 13% to 78%. Over-the-counter lubricants and moisturizers were the most popular therapeutic options (24.0%-85.5%), followed by low-dose vaginal estrogens (4.8%-35.0%). Vaginal health is not frequently discussed during doctor visits and awareness about the condition and the number of treatment options is low. Women are concerned about the long-term safety and side effects of hormonal treatment. The majority of women who suffer from genitourinary symptoms are dissatisfied by the treatment they have used.

Conclusions and relevance: GSM is a highly prevalent condition among women. Nevertheless, women are frequently not aware of its cause and its treatment options. The findings of this review underline the need for education of patients and healthcare professionals regarding GSM diagnosis and treatment options.

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Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Dyspareunia* / epidemiology
  • Dyspareunia* / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menopause
  • Prevalence
  • Vagina / pathology
  • Vaginal Diseases* / pathology