Diagnosis, causes, and treatment of dyspareunia in postmenopausal women

Menopause. 2023 Jun 1;30(6):635-649. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000002179. Epub 2023 Apr 11.


Importance and objectives: Evaluation and treatment of dyspareunia remains a significant unmet need despite the availability of safe and effective treatments. The objectives of this review are to consider evaluation techniques, the medical causes, and treatment options for dyspareunia in postmenopausal women.

Methods: This narrative review used PubMed to search for English-language articles related to postmenopausal dyspareunia. Search terms included, but were not limited to, dyspareunia, genitourinary syndrome of menopause, sexual dysfunction, postmenopausal dyspareunia, posthysterectomy dyspareunia, and postcancer dyspareunia.

Findings: Many postmenopausal women with dyspareunia do not discuss their symptoms with their physicians. Healthcare clinicians should broach the topic of dyspareunia with their patients using oral or written questionnaires. In addition to a thorough medical history and physical examination, various tools can be used as further assessments, including vaginal pH, vaginal dilators, imaging, vulvar biopsy, vulvoscopy and photography, the cotton swab test, sexually transmitted infection screening, and vaginitis testing. Although dyspareunia in postmenopausal women is often due to the genitourinary syndrome of menopause, other conditions can also cause dyspareunia, including hypertonic pelvic floor, hysterectomy, cancer treatment, lichen conditions, vulvar cancer, vestibulodynia, and pelvic organ prolapse. Some of the treatments discussed include lubricants, moisturizers, vaginal estrogen, ospemifene, dehydroepiandrosterone, local testosterone therapy, cannabidiol, and fractional CO 2 laser treatments. In some cases, dyspareunia may need to be specifically addressed by pelvic floor physical or sex therapists.

Conclusions: Dyspareunia is a common issue in postmenopausal women, which remains largely untreated. Women with dyspareunia require a thorough history, targeted physical examination, and coordination of multiple disciplines including medical clinicians, pelvic floor physical therapists, and sex therapists.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atrophy / complications
  • Dyspareunia* / diagnosis
  • Dyspareunia* / etiology
  • Dyspareunia* / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menopause
  • Postmenopause
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological* / complications
  • Vagina / pathology