dry vagina

Causes, Symptoms, and Effects of a Dry Vagina

According to research, over 20 percent of women may experience vaginal dryness by the age of 18. Although this is a common condition, it can have a significant impact on our relationships and daily activities.

While most women will likely experience a dry vagina at some point in their lives, it is crucial to identify the symptoms to successfully address the underlying issue. Learn how to treat a dry vagina to live a more comfortable life by reading on.

What Is Vaginal Dryness?

Estrogen helps maintain the elasticity, acidity, and thickness of the vaginal lining by lubricating it with fluid. When estrogen levels are low, the skin and tissues in your vulva and vagina become thin and dry. The result is vaginal dryness, also known as vaginal atrophy.

Vaginal dryness can happen at any age. More than half of women are affected by this condition. This is common during or after menopause, when estrogen declines. Up to 17 percent of women or individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB) between the ages of 18 and 50 will experience vaginal dryness during intercourse even before menopause begins.

Causes of a Dry Vagina

Vaginal dryness can affect people of all ages. Hormonal changes caused by aging are the most typical cause. Certain treatments or health conditions can also cause vaginal or genital dryness such as:

  • diabetes
  • childbirth
  • breastfeeding 
  • smoking
  • menopause or perimenopause
  • contraceptive pills
  • removal of uterus
  • removal of ovaries
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome (autoimmune disease that affects moisture glands)
  • cancer treatments like chemotherapy 
  • antidepressants, antihistamines, and anti-estrogen medications
  • perfumed soaps, lotions, or douches in and around vagina
  • lack of sexual arousal
  • severe stress and depression

Estrogen helps lubricate the vaginal lining and preserve its thickness. This results in a moist vagina. Adversely, a decrease in hormone levels creates less moisture. This changes how much vaginal fluid or discharge you have.

Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness

To effectively improve vaginal health, it is necessary to first recognize and understand your symptoms. While it may vary with each individual, the symptoms of a dry vagina may include:

  • discomfort or pain during sex
  • burning and itching
  • bleeding after intercourse
  • soreness in vulvar area
  • recurrent yeast infections or urinary tract infections
  • painful or frequent urination
  • loss of sexual interest

Although discussing vaginal dryness can be embarrassing or uncomfortable, it is recommended to speak with your partner or consult a health care professional to help you cope with the bothersome symptoms.

Diagnosing Vaginal Dryness

Doctors can detect vaginal dryness using your medical background and a physical examination. To determine the cause, your practitioner may request certain tests and inquire about your symptoms and medications.

During a pelvic exam, your vagina may be examined for signs of thinning, dryness, or redness. Blood tests can identify hormonal imbalances and underlying health problems. Your physician may also analyze a sample of your vaginal discharge to see if there are any other causes or signs of infection.

It is vital to consult with your healthcare provider if you experience unusual symptoms like irregular vaginal discharge or bleeding between menstrual cycles or after sexual activity. You should also speak with a specialist if your vaginal dryness persists for more than a few weeks, if home care treatments are ineffective, or if it interferes with your everyday life.

Treating Vaginal Dryness 

Fortunately, there are remedies that can effectively treat a dry vagina. You can try home care alternatives, most of which are available at the pharmacy without a prescription. Speak with your healthcare professional to determine which of the following treatments is best for you:

Vaginal Moisturizers

Vaginal moisturizers typically contain hyaluronic acid, a component of the human body that acts as a lubricant for our tissues and helps the vagina retain moisture. Moisturizers in gel or suppository form are inserted into the vagina three times a week to provide continuous hydration. These are not the same as lubricants.

Vaginal Washes

There are feminine washes, also known as intimate washes, that are specially formulated for the vaginal area. They are gentle cleansing agents that help to ensure genital hygiene and hydration. They are also available as wipes. It is recommended to use products that are fragrance-free and scent-free. 

Vaginal Lubricants

Lubricants help to minimize chafing or discomfort from dryness during intercourse. Before engaging in sexual activity, the lubricant is placed within the vagina and/or on the penis.

Water-based lubricants are the most natural and contain minimal ingredients, reducing the chances of irritation. Lubricants made specifically for the vaginal area are usually more effective than lubricants like petroleum jelly.

Vaginal Estrogen

If moisturizers and lubricants are not enough to alleviate your symptoms, vaginal estrogen is one of the most effective remedies for a dry vagina. When used regularly, it helps rebuild the outer layer of vaginal tissues, increasing elasticity and connective tissue. A doctor’s prescription is required.

When compared to other estrogen products like contraceptive pills and postmenopausal hormone therapy, a very small dosage of estrogen is absorbed into the bloodstream with minimal risk of hormonal side effects.

Vaginal estrogen is available as a cream, tablet or capsule, or ring. Estrogen cream coats the vaginal tissues and can be inserted into the vagina with an applicator or your fingertips. A tablet or capsule is placed inside the vagina with a disposable applicator.

An estrogen ring is a flexible plastic ring worn inside the vagina at all times, can be used during bathing or intercourse, and is replaced every three months. Be careful not to confuse a vaginal dryness ring with an estrogen replacement ring. An estrogen ring releases higher amounts of estrogen and is intended to treat hot flashes caused by menopause.

A Healthy Lifestyle

Vaginal dryness is a condition that can be bothersome and possibly have an effect on our quality of life and personal relationships. Fortunately, there are treatment options available to help reduce and relieve your discomfort.

Our goal is to provide an effective guide to treating a dry vagina. Contact us and take that first step to living the healthy and happy lifestyle you deserve.

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