Vaginal dryness: Causes and treatments

How does vaginal dryness feel? Itchy is how most women describe it. Vaginal dryness can cause pain and bleeding during intercourse and increase the possibility of developing a vaginal infection.

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Normally, the walls of the vagina stay lubricated with a thin layer of clear fluid. The hormone estrogen helps maintain that fluid and keeps the lining of your vagina healthy, thick, and elastic.

A drop in estrogen levels reduces the amount of moisture available. It can happen at any age from a number of different causes. Vaginal dryness is a common problem that many women have at some point in their lives. It may seem like a minor irritation. But the lack of vaginal moisture can have a huge impact on your sex life. Fortunately, several treatments are available to relieve vaginal dryness.
According to famous American corporation WebMD, close to one out of every three women experiences Vaginal dryness during changes towards menopause. It becomes even more common afterward. It also makes the vagina thinner and less elastic. This is called vaginal atrophy.
Vaginal dryness is perhaps the most distressing and least talked about symptom of menopause.
Symptoms of vaginal dryness

According to the National Health Service (NHS) of UK, you may have vaginal dryness if you:

These things may make you feel less like you want to have sex.

Vaginal dryness occurs in about 20% of women, sometimes transiently and other times permanently. If you’re sore from vaginal dryness, you don’t want to have sex and if you don’t have sex, your vaginal dryness gets worse—a classic catch-22.
Dr. Susan Love

Causes of vaginal dryness

You can get vaginal dryness if you:

  • go through the menopause
  • are breastfeeding
  • take contraceptive pills or antidepressants
  • have your womb or ovaries removed (a hysterectomy)
  • have cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy

These things can cause a change in your hormone levels. This change can affect how much vaginal discharge or fluid you have.

You can also have vaginal dryness if you:

  • aren’t aroused during sex due to not enough foreplay
  • use perfumed soaps, washes or douches in and around your vagina
  • have an underlying condition, such as diabetes or Sjögren’s syndrome
  • Allergy and cold medications
Things you can try yourself

You can try these things before you see a GP. You can get most of them from a pharmacy without a prescription.

Do
  • use water-based lubricants before sex – put these in and around your vagina or on your partner’s penis
  • use vaginal moisturisers for vaginal dryness – you can put these inside your vagina to keep it moist
  • use unperfumed soaps and washes around your vagina
  • try to enjoy more foreplay so you’re more aroused during sex – read about how to be more aroused during sex
Don’t
  • do not use perfumed soaps, washes and any douches in and around your vagina
  • do not put creams or lotions like petroleum jelly inside your vagina as it can cause an infection
  • do not use moisturisers that aren’t for your vagina

Consult with a physician if:

  • it’s been a few weeks and things you can try yourself aren’t working
  • it’s affecting your daily life
  • you have unusual discharge or bleeding from your vagina
  • you have bleeding after sex or in between your periods
Diagnosis

Any burning, itching, or discomfort in the area is worth a call to your doctor or gynecologist. They’ll ask about your past health and find out how long you’ve had symptoms and what seems to make them worse or better.

Your doctor will do a pelvic exam, checking your vagina for any thinning or redness. The exam will help rule out other possible causes for your discomfort, including a vaginal or urinary tract infection. The doctor may also remove cells from your vaginal wall or cervix for a Pap test.

Medication

The most common treatment for vaginal dryness due to low estrogen levels is topical estrogen therapy. These replace some of the hormone your body is no longer making. That helps relieve vaginal symptoms, but it doesn’t put as much estrogen in your bloodstream as the hormone therapy you take in pills.

If you’re getting vaginal dryness because of changes in your hormone levels, you may be prescribed creams, gels, patches or medicines to increase a hormone called oestrogen. This is called HRT.

Most women use one of three types of vaginal estrogen:

  • Ring (Estring): You or your doctor inserts this soft, flexible ring into your vagina where it releases a steady stream of estrogen directly to the tissues. The ring is replaced every 3 months.
  • Tablet (Vagifem): You use a disposable applicator to put a tablet into your vagina once a day for the first two weeks of treatment. Then you do it twice a week until you no longer need it.
  • Cream (Estrace, Premarin): You use an applicator to get the cream into your vagina. You’ll typically apply the cream daily for 1 to 2 weeks, then cut back to one to three times a week as directed by your doctor.

Any estrogen product can have side effects, such as vaginal bleeding and breast pain. Topical estrogen may not be recommended when you:

There isn’t much research on the long-term use of topical estrogen, but doctors believe it’s safe.
Other Products

You can buy a vaginal moisturizer (like Replens) at your local drugstore or supermarket.

Take your time before having sex to make sure that you’re fully relaxed and aroused. Apply a water-based lubricant (Astroglide, K-Y) to help enjoy intercourse more.

Avoid using douches, bubble baths, scented soaps, and lotions around the sensitive vaginal area. These products can worsen dryness.

 

Note: In the following pages, we are attaching a number of study reports done by reputed organizations which may be helpful for our readers, especially the students and medical professionals.

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