Vaginal dryness is a common side effect of menopause and the aging process. Symptoms of vaginal dryness include itching, burning, soreness, pain or light bleeding during intercourse, and increased frequency and urgency of urination. Vaginal dryness is partially caused by a drop in hormone levels, namely estrogen.
Estrogen maintains normal vaginal lubrication, tissue elasticity and acidity, and the health of vaginal tissue. When estrogen levels decrease, the vagina becomes thinner, less elastic, more prone to infection, and secretes less moisture. Vaginal dryness usually begins impacting women around menopause, and continues to impact them, so it is important to seek treatment if you are suffering from vaginal dryness.
Estrogen levels in your body can decrease for a number of reasons. These reasons include:
- Menopause or perimenopause
- Effects on your ovaries
- Removal of your ovaries
- Immune disorders
- Cigarette smoking
- Certain medications
It is important to understand why your estrogen levels are dropping so that you have a better idea on how to treat vaginal dryness.Vaginal dryness can cause many disruptions to your everyday life and could even force you to stop doing the things you love. It can make exercise extremely uncomfortable and make intercourse very painful which can in turn cause serious relationship problems. It is difficult to know how long your vaginal dryness will last, but if you take the right steps and precautions, you will be better equipped to deal with this symptom of menopause.
Use a Vaginal Lubricant or Moisturizer
Lubricant can provide moisture and reduce friction in the vagina, and it is usually applied right before sex. Lubricant is not absorbed into the body and can be purchased over-the-counter at a pharmacy. Usually, water-based lubricant is recommended because oil-based lubricant tends to break condoms and also has a higher risk of causing vaginal infections.
Vaginal moisturizers are used on a regular bases to provide moisture to the vagina and are absorbed by the body. They are not used before sex. Vaginal moisturizers can be purchased over-the counter at pharmacies.
Some vaginal moisturizers contain estrogen, but these need a prescription. Estrogen replacement has been found to greatly reduce many menopausal symptoms. Estrogen replacement can be taken in many different forms, not just in a moisturizer. It is important not to use estrogen containing vaginal moisturizer before sex because the hormones can negatively impact your partner's health.
Even if you are experiencing vaginal dryness, it is important to continue to stimulate your vagina and enjoy sex, whether it is with a partner or with yourself. Research has found that using a vibrator a few times a week can help improve vaginal blood flow and moisture, which can combat vaginal dryness. Using a vibrator can strengthen the muscles in the vagina and boost libido.
Vaginal dryness caused by menopause and aging is usually a long-term condition. This means it is important to seek treatment and to consult your doctor if the symptoms continue.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2012). Vaginal Dryness. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vaginal-dryness/basics/causes/con-20029192
- The North American Menopause Society. (2014). Vaginal Dryness. Retrieved from http://www.menopause.org/docs/for-women/mndryness.pdf