A thin layer of moisture coats the walls of a woman’s
vagina. This moisture provides an alkaline environment that sperm can survive
in and travel in for sexual reproduction. These vaginal secretions also
lubricate the vaginal wall, reducing friction during sexual intercourse.
As a woman ages, changes in hormone production can cause the vaginal walls
to thin. Thinner walls mean fewer cells that secrete moisture. This can lead to
vaginal dryness. Hormonal changes are the most common cause of vaginal dryness,
but they aren’t the only cause.
are the effects of vaginal dryness?
Vaginal dryness can cause discomfort in the vaginal and pelvic regions.
Vaginal dryness can also cause:
- loss of interest in sex
- pain with sexual intercourse
- light bleeding following intercourse
- urinary tract infections that don’t go away or that
- vaginal itching or stinging
Vaginal dryness can be a source of embarrassment. This may prevent a woman
from discussing symptoms with her physician or partner, however the condition
is a common occurrence that affects many women.
of vaginal dryness
Falling estrogen levels are the chief cause of vaginal dryness. As a woman
ages, she begins to produce less estrogen. This leads to the end of
menstruation during a time called perimenopause.
However, menopause isn’t the only condition that causes a decrease in
estrogen production. Other causes include:
- cigarette smoking
- excessive stress
- immune system disorders, such as Sjogren’s syndrome
- rigorous exercise
- some cancer treatments, such as radiation to the
pelvis, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy
- surgical removal of the ovaries
Some medications can also reduce secretions in the body. Douching may also
cause dryness and irritation, as well as some creams and lotions that women
apply to the vaginal area.
to seek medical help
Vaginal dryness rarely indicates a serious medical condition. But seek help if
the discomfort lasts beyond a few days or if you experience discomfort during
sexual intercourse. If left untreated, vaginal dryness can cause sores or
cracking in the vagina’s tissues.
If the condition is accompanied by severe vaginal bleeding, seek immediate
During an exam, your doctor may examine the vaginal walls to look for
lacerations or feel for thinning skin. They may also take a sample of vaginal
discharge to test for the presence of harmful bacteria.
Additionally, hormone tests can determine if you are in perimenopause or
is vaginal dryness treated?
There are many over-the-counter lubricants that can be applied to the
vaginal area to reduce dryness and discomfort. These lubricants and
moisturizing creams can also change the vagina’s pH, reducing the likelihood of
getting a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Women should choose a lubricant specifically intended for vaginal use. The
lubricant should be water-based. They shouldn’t contain perfumes, herbal
extracts, or artificial colors. All of these can cause irritation. Lubricants
such as petroleum jelly and mineral oil can damage latex condoms and diaphragms
used for birth control.
In some instances, a healthcare provider will prescribe estrogen therapy in
the form of a pill, cream, or ring, which release estrogen. Creams and rings
release estrogen directly to the tissues. Pills are more likely to be used when
you have other uncomfortable menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes.
Because many products can irritate delicate vaginal
skin, it’s important to seek evaluation and treatment advice at a physician’s
office if the condition persists.
How can I prevent
Refrain from using irritating products, such as douches. Avoid condoms that
contain nonoyxnol-9, or N-9. They have a chemical that can cause vaginal
dryness. It’s important to know that age- or reproductive-related changes to
the vagina can’t be prevented.