Vaginal dryness

By Medically reviewed by Hello Doktor Medical Panel

Definition

What is vaginal dryness?

Vaginal dryness may be a problem for women at any age, although it occurs more frequently in older women, particularly after menopause.

During menopause, estrogen production slows and then stops. When that happens, a number of changes — many of them unwelcome — happen in a woman’s body. Periods become irregular and then stop. You may have hot flashes, mood swings, a deeper voice, and an increase in facial hair.

Vaginal dryness is another common symptom of menopause — and close to one out of every three women experiences it while going through “the change.” And it becomes even more common after menopause. Vaginal dryness also can occur at any age from a number of different causes. 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.

How common is vaginal dryness?

Vaginal dryness is extremely common. lease discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of vaginal dryness?

Some women only have symptoms of vaginal dryness at certain times, such as during sex, while others have them all the time.

Problems associated with having a dry vagina include:

  • Vaginal irritation, discomfort, itchiness or a burning sensation
  • Discomfort during sex
  • A reduced sex drive
  • Difficulty getting aroused and reaching orgasm
  • The surface of the vagina looks pale and thin
  • Narrowing or shortening of the vagina
  • Needing to pee more often than usual
  • Repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs)

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

Consult your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Self-help measures aren’t effective
  • Your symptoms are particularly severe and are interfering with your normal activities
  • You have other troublesome symptoms, such as hot flushes and night sweats

Causes

What causes vaginal dryness?

Causes of a dry vagina include:

  • The menopause – decreased levels of the hormone oestrogen during the menopause can cause persistent vaginal dryness (also known as vaginal atrophy or atrophic vaginitis)
  • Breastfeeding or childbirth – oestrogen levels can temporarily decrease after giving birth and make your vagina feel drier than usual
  • Not being aroused before sex – if you don’t feel aroused before having sex, your vagina may not produce natural lubricant and sex may be uncomfortable
  • Some types of contraception – the combined contraceptive pill and contraceptive injection can occasionally cause vaginal dryness, although this is uncommon
  • Cancer treatment – radiotherapy to the pelvic area, hormonal cancer treatments, and sometimes chemotherapy can cause vaginal dryness
  • Vaginal dryness is also sometimes caused by an underlying condition such as diabetes or Sjögren’s syndrome, where the immune attacks the glands in the body that produce fluid.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for vaginal dryness?

There are many risk factors for vaginal dryness, such as:

  • Menopause age
  • Breastfeeding or childbirth
  • Contraception
  • Cancer treatment
  • Douching

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is vaginal dryness diagnosed?

Any burning, itching, or discomfort in the vaginal area warrants a call to your doctor or gynecologist. The doctor will take a health history and find out how long you’ve been experiencing symptoms and whether anything — such as douching or taking medication — seems to worsen them.

Your doctor will then 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 urinary tract infection. The doctor may also do a Pap test to remove and test cells from your vaginal wall or cervix.

How is vaginal dryness treated?

The most common treatment for vaginal dryness due to low estrogen levels is topical estrogen therapy. Topical estrogen replaces 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 oral estrogen hormone therapy (HT).

Most women use one of three types of vaginal estrogen:

  • Vaginal estrogen ring (Estring). You or your doctor inserts this soft, flexible ring into the vagina. There it releases a steady stream of estrogen directly to the vaginal tissues. The ring is replaced every three months.
  • Vaginal estrogen tablet (Vagifem). You use a disposable applicator to insert a tablet into your vagina once a day for the first two weeks of treatment. Then you insert it twice a week until you no longer need it.
  • Vaginal estrogen cream (Estrace, Premarin). You use an applicator to insert the cream into your vagina. You will typically apply the cream daily for one to two weeks then reduce the frequency to one to three times a week as directed by your doctor.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage vaginal dryness?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with vaginal dryness:

  • Try using a vaginal moisturizer (replens, lubrin)
  • Apply a water-based lubricant (astroglide, k-y) before intercourse. Also take your time before having sex to make sure that you are fully relaxed and aroused.
  • Avoid using douches, bubble baths, scented soaps, and lotions around the sensitive vaginal area. These products can worsen dryness.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Review Date: November 8, 2017 | Last Modified: December 6, 2019

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