What is vaginal dryness?
Vaginal dryness is the term used to describe a lack of moisture within the vagina and is typically associated with menopause.
Vaginal dryness may also be known as atrophic vaginitis or vaginal atrophy.
What causes vaginal dryness?
The main cause of vaginal dryness is a lack of estrogen.
Estrogen is the name given to a group of hormones that promote the growth, development, and maintenance of female characteristics in the human body, including the regulation of the menstrual cycle and reproductive system.
Estrogen also keeps the tissue lining the vagina moisturized, thick, and healthy. As estrogen levels decline, the tissues of the vagina become thinner, drier, and less elastic. This is known as vaginal atrophy
Vaginal dryness is usually caused by a natural decline in estrogen levels around the time of menopause.
Other causes of low estrogen may include:
- Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation
- Medications, such as antihistamines, antidepressants, or medications that oppose estrogens, such as leuprolide acetate and goserelin
- Removal of the ovaries
- Sjögren’s syndrome which can cause inflammation of the vaginal tissues, leading to dryness
What are the symptoms of vaginal dryness?
Symptoms can vary depending on the degree of tissue loss but may include:
- Vaginal dryness or irritation
- Vaginal burning or itching
- Pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse which may be due to a narrowing of the vagina and a tightening of the vaginal opening
- An increased risk of vaginal and urinary tract infections
- Increased frequency of urination
- Other symptoms of menopause, such as night sweats and insomnia
How is vaginal dryness diagnosed?
See your doctor if you are experiencing vaginal dryness or any other troublesome symptoms relating to menopause.
Your doctor will perform a pelvic examination and review your medical history including symptoms and menstrual changes. Samples of your vaginal wall may be taken to test for infection.
What is the treatment for vaginal dryness?
Some treatments for vaginal dryness may be brought over the counter and others are available on prescription.
Treatments may include:
- Topical estrogen creams, rings, or vaginal tablets
- Vaginal lubricants to use during sexual intercourse
- Vaginal moisturizers to help maintain the vagina’s natural moisture levels.
- Eating foods that contain phytoestrogens such as soy, nuts, seeds, or tofu
- Having sex on a regular basis can also help improve blood flow to the vagina and help with vaginal dryness