Viewing symptoms associated with Vulvovaginal Atrophy (VVA)/Genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) through the estro-androgenic lens – Cluster analysis of a web-based Italian survey among women over 40

Rossella E. Nappi, Costantino Di Carlo, Laura Cucinella, Marco Gambacciani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: we aimed to explore the use of an estro-androgenic symptom questionnaire in women (EASQ-W), including items typically associated with menopausal hypoestrogenism and some others possibly related to androgen insufficiency that may be relevant to further characterize women reporting VVA/GSM at midlife. Methods: web-based survey involving a representative sample of 1505 Italian women (age range: 40–65 years). The responders completed a structured, online questionnaire, reporting symptoms (yes/no option) and rating them (from 1 to 10), if present during the past 4 weeks. A factor analysis methodology (principal component analysis and K-MEANS clustering algorithm) was used to segment women. Statistically significant differences between groups were determined at the 95 % level of confidence. Results: more than half of our study sample were aged 50–65 years (n = 901; 59.9 %) and 55 % were postmenopausal women (PMW). We obtained 8 principal domains of the EASQ-W with PMW reporting significantly more severe symptoms in the majority of domains related to well-being at mid-life. The K-MEANS clustering algorithm identified 4 clusters of women characterized by different symptoms: vasomotor (VMS; n = 341), sexual (SEX; n = 301), poorly symptomatic (LOWSYMPT; n = 766), sexual and anatomic, mainly at genital level (SEX + ANAT; n = 97), independently from the menopausal status. The cluster SEX + ANAT was the one reporting overall more symptoms in each of the other principal domains. Some symptoms (impression of being diminished in height, deterioration in work performance, more memory lapses/confusion than before, more wrinkles/signs of aging in the mirror, put on more tummy than usual) and the entire urological (UROL) cluster were significantly more reported by women in the cluster SEX + ANAT. Even when only severe symptoms were analysed, women in the SEX + ANAT cluster were the ones more symptomatic. The SEX only cluster identified younger women, with significantly less day and night hot flushes and sweats and less vaginal dryness and low lubrication associated with sexual pain as compared to SEX + ANAT. Conclusion: our results provide insight into the constellation of symptoms associated with VVA/GSM by identifying women with distinct clusters of complaints that may require a tailored diagnostic and therapeutic approach across age and menopause.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMaturitas
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2020

Keywords

  • Anatomy
  • Androgens
  • Estrogens
  • Sexuality
  • Uro-genital health
  • Vaginal atrophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology

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