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A Guide on Vaginal Dryness: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Vaginal dryness

Vaginal Dryness image - (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

Story At-A-Glance
  • Vaginal dryness is a subject that not many women want to talk about; after all, we want to be seen as sexy, desirable, attractive, and on top of our game. 
  • But how well do you know your vagina? Studies by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals for vaginal dryness treatment showed that more than half of women don’t have good knowledge and understanding about their genitalia at all.
  • Many women often don’t recognize vaginal dryness symptoms.
  • It shouldn’t be a taboo subject – it’s a common complaint and in 2017, six out of 10 women said they suffered from vaginal dryness.

Vaginal dryness is a common complaint of women, particularly for menopausal women. The vagina no longer produces as much vaginal lubrication as it once did.

Because of dryness, it makes sex uncomfortable for women, even painful. Vaginal dryness causes infections, including viral and bacterial infections – and we know full well how these can shut down any sexual feelings we might have had. All the misconceptions out there can prevent you from having a satisfying, sexy, and healthy sex life, particularly after you hit the fabulous forties.

Because the vagina is no different from other parts of the body – it will change with age, and there will be issues related to vaginal dryness and other associated symptoms like low libido and pain.

It’s not doom and gloom! These are common problems, and there are treatments for you to solve them.

Vaginal Dryness Causes

Remember that it can happen to any woman at any age, for different reasons. The causes can be determined by careful assessment.

The causes of vaginal dryness most certainly related to decreased levels of estrogen. Estrogen is a female hormone – it keeps the lining of your vagina thick, elastic, and lubricated.

  • Low Estrogen – When estrogen levels start decreasing in menopause, vaginal dryness symptoms will show up. For many women, this can cause pain and discomfort during intercourse. As a woman ages, the lining of the vagina gets thinner, less elastic, dry, and even the color changes. All this is known as vaginal atrophy.Sometimes vaginal dryness symptoms, for example, when estrogen drops for reasons such as childbirth and breastfeeding, or when you are having medical treatments such as for cancer, will cause vaginal dryness.

    Then, there’s having a hysterectomy, a procedure that involves removal of the ovaries, or painful endometriosis, which sometimes needs anti-estrogen drugs to fight it, these can cause vaginal dryness.

  • Estrogen level

  • Sjögren’s syndrome – It’s an autoimmune disorder where the lining of the vagina can become inflamed, and this can lead to dryness in the vagina.
  • Antihistamines – Drugs used for allergy and cold symptoms dry up secretions. Side effects can include trouble urinating and vaginal dryness.
  • Antidepressants – Certain antidepressants can come with sexual side effects like decreased libido, vaginal dryness, and also difficulties with achieving orgasm.
  • Personal care products – Products like bubble baths, scented soaps, lotions, and douching can disrupt the natural chemistry of the vagina. It is also vital to keep underwear clean. Clean cotton underwear should be worn every day.
  • Injectables – These are required for the removal of, for example, an ovarian cyst before an operation.
  • Vaginal inflammation – It can happen by either a bacterial or fungal infection.
  • Low sexual desire – Low sex drive or other issues associated with sexual intercourse could be the culprits of vaginal dryness.
  • Frequent washing of the vagina – Frequent washing can lead to an acidic imbalance and dryness.
  • Depression, stress, and anxiety – Emotional and psychological issues can cause insufficient blood flow to the extremities, including the vagina, and this can cause vaginal dryness.
  • Intense physical activities – Vaginal dryness symptoms can be the result of strenuous physical activities.
  • Cigarettes and alcohol – Laura Berman, Ph. D. says that cigarettes[1] can decrease circulation, which can intensify the dryness of the vagina. Alcohol can decrease any sensations – you should limit yourself to just one or two glasses if you plan to have sex later.
  • cigarettes and alcohol

  • Tampons and condoms – These products also cause dryness. Avoid condoms that contain Nonoxynol-9, which increases the chances of vaginal dryness.
  • Hormonal imbalance – Hormonal imbalance another one of the top vaginal dryness symptoms. When estrogen levels fall, particularly during perimenopause and menopause, vaginal dryness can result.

Every woman who goes through menopause won’t be the same as other women – each one is different. The symptoms will vary in severity.

What Are The Symptoms Of Vaginal Dryness?

All women are different, and the changes mentioned above can either cause symptoms or discomfort or not. However, it causes the following symptoms to develop in women.

  • Pain during sex – This can happen because your vagina has become smaller and drier. It might be less able to become lubricated during sex compared with how it was in the past, before menopause. Vaginal dryness causes painful sex. Also, the skin around your vagina most probably has become more fragile, and this can make the problems worse.
    Vaginal discharge – The discharge[2] can be yellow or white, and often, this can be a sign of infection – not always – it could have a nasty smell as well.
  • Itching – Vaginal dryness causes itchy skin. The skin around the vagina might have become very sensitive and, if so, can cause it to become itchy where you feel you need to scratch it, which can promote even more itching, and so on. This symptom is called an itch/scratch cycle[3], and it can be pretty difficult to break, causing distress and anxiousness.
  • Urinary problems – Vaginal dryness causes various urinary problems. The area around the neck of the bladder becomes thin and weak. Urinary symptoms can occur when you have recurring urinary tract infections.

How Is Vaginal Dryness Diagnosed – Is There Treatment?

When it comes to vaginal dryness, there is no single test to diagnose it and vaginal atrophy – doctors usually use a woman’s symptoms for diagnosing and suggesting vaginal dryness treatment.

The doctor is very likely to perform a pelvic examination for you, and also require a thorough health history of your vaginal dryness symptoms and menstrual changes.

The pelvic examination helps the doctor to see whether there are any changes in your vaginal walls – if you have any infections, etc. One can collect samples from any vaginal discharge or cells so that the doctor can have them tested for the presence of bacteria.

Sometimes it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing to discuss intimate, personal details with your doctor; but remember they are used to having these types of conversations. But it is important to seek help so you can get to the root of the problem and get your symptoms under control.

vaginal dryness treatment

Vaginal Dryness Treatment

There are lots of treatments for it. Your doctor can prescribe some, and some you can get over the counter.

Topical estrogen cream

A common treatment for vaginal dryness occurs by low estrogen levels is topical estrogen creams. This means using a medicine that is applied directly to the vaginal area to relieve symptoms.

Over-the-counter vaginal dryness treatment

Lubricants are used, particularly at the time of intercourse. Lubricants help to increase moisture and have sex less painful. You get water-based lubricants as well as oil-based lubricants. The water-based products are better than the oil-based items which can irritate the skin and also cause condoms to break.

There are heaps of lubricant types on the market, and you need to check them out because they are not all of high quality – some even contain hormones and some contain anesthetics. And many don’t work as promised.

You get some that contain niacin and L-arginine in them, and these can increase sexual pleasure quicker because they increase blood flow to the region.

Remember, too, that personal lubricants can interfere with sperm and reduce a couple’s chances of conceiving. If you want to get pregnant, try using only natural lubricants – this could be canola oil, saliva, or egg whites.

Even though estrogen in its variety of forms can help with vaginal dryness, many women try and avoid hormone-based treatments. The easiest solution by far for vaginal dryness is to use high-quality lubricants for sex and everyday dryness.

To use during sex, all you do is gently massage a drop of the sexy gel onto the clitoris or vulva. Your partner can use the lubricant as well if he is using a condom. You use as little or as much as you need to achieve pleasurable and sensual intercourse.

Vaginal moisturizers can be used every day to help to maintain the vagina’s natural moisture.  Moisturizers could be your best dryness treatment even for the vagina.

Home Remedies For Vaginal Dryness Treatment

There are a few home remedies to try to combat vaginal dryness symptoms that involve making a few lifestyle changes:

1. Regular sex

Plenty of foreplay and arousal before sex helps with vaginal dryness and make sex more enjoyable.

2. Cotton Underwear

Underwear that is of synthetic materials clings to the skin, making any vaginal irritations worse; even restricting air movement. Choose cotton underwear as it promotes good airflow, allowing the vagina to “breathe.”

3. Natural Products for vaginal dryness symptoms

  • Wild Yam cream
    You can apply Wild Yam cream topically to your skin. Wild Yam is good as a natural source of estrogen. But there is no evidence, yet, that this cream is capable of increasing your estrogen levels or that it has any effect on it.
  • Black Cohosh
    As far as natural supplements go, Black Cohosh is often present in menopause treatments. It helps with vaginal dryness and other symptoms associated with menopause.
  • Kudzu
    There was a study done on 71 healthy postmenopausal women where researchers discovered that women taking the herb kudzu in capsule form every day for 24 weeks helped to alleviate vaginal dryness symptoms and restore the health of their vaginal tissue.

4. Foods that contain phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens are compounds that are similar to estrogen in the body, which are present in many plant-based foods. These include nuts, soy, seeds, and tofu. There is research that shows that phytoestrogens can help to improve hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Phytoestrogens can be beneficial for women who want to try and rebalance their hormones as they approach menopause.

foods with phytoestrogens

Frequently Asked Questions

When you have less estrogen in your body from being menopausal, you are more likely to experience vaginal dryness symptoms. Less estrogen causes your vaginal walls to start thinning, meaning you will naturally produce less lubricant in your cervix.

Vaginal dryness can occur in women at any age, and that can be before menopause as well. It can be from different medications you are taking. It can also be that you are not being aroused with sufficient foreplay before sex. Read the causes of vaginal dryness above.

It’s best to use products that have been specifically designed for vaginal dryness. These do the job of moisturizing and helping to protect your vagina for longer than what regular lubricants do. 

Yes. Vaginal dryness doesn’t have to hinder your daily life – and diet plays an integral part in sexual health. 

Conclusion

When a woman reaches menopause, with the average age being around age 51, she not only has to deal with the emotional issues, but there are physical effects as well. These can all lead to feelings of frustration and anxiety.

Vaginal dryness is just one such issue that is part of menopause that can cause stress. Remember that there are millions of women all over the world who feel like you do. But if you want to change things, we have given you plenty of advice to deal with the dryness, and it could all start with a visit to your doctor to discuss what could be possible problems and determine which vaginal dryness treatment will work for you.

Having annual checkups, along with ongoing gynecological examinations, will also help to reduce the impact on yourself and your partner.

It is a common problem that doctors are all too familiar with at their clinical practices, so don’t put off that all-important physical examination – your problem might be nothing more than a common infection.

A yeast infection can lead to itching, and itching can lead to dryness, and before long, you might have solved the problem that you have been agonizing over for so long. Don’t put it off – there are ways to solve it, and it starts with you!

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