For a woman going through menopause, vaginal dryness can be a deeply troubling symptom affecting both her sex life and her overall quality of life. Luckily, there are plenty of options for overcoming vaginal dryness. Read on to learn how to manage vaginal dryness symptoms.
What Exactly Is Vaginal Dryness?
Vaginal dryness is the loss of moisture in the vaginal wall lining. The vagina is typically kept moist by mucus membranes. The female hormone estrogen supports these membranes in producing lubrication that works to keep the vagina moist and strong, and to avoid the painful frictions as a result of vaginal dryness. The lubricant also has a low acidity level that helps protect the vagina from foreign bacteria.
Vaginal dryness often causes painful intercourse, which affects a woman's sex life and can put undue strain on her intimate relationships.
What Are the Causes of Vaginal Dryness?
When a woman experiences menopause, estrogen production begins to slow down before ceasing completely. As this happens, a number of changes take place in the female body. Periods become irregular and eventually stop. Many women experience night sweats, hot flashes, and frequent mood swings. Some women even notice an increase in facial hair. Another common menopausal symptom is vaginal dryness, which can affect one in three women experiencing menopause.
While a hormonal imbalance during menopause is the most common cause of vaginal dryness in women, estrogen levels can also drop due to other factors, including:
- Removal of the ovaries
- Childbirth and breastfeeding
- Certain medications
More specifically, vaginal dryness can be the result of:
- Sjorgren's syndrome (i,e.,an autoimmune disorder that attacks moisture producing cells)
- Antidepressants, along with some allergy and cold medication
- Insufficient foreplay before sexual intercourse
How Can I Overcome the Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness?
If symptoms are due to low estrogen production, one of the most common treatments for vaginal dryness is topical estrogen therapy. Topical estrogen replaces some of the hormones that your body is no longer producing. This serves to relieve vaginal symptoms, but it doesn't put as much estrogen in your bloodstream as oral hormone replacement therapy (HRT). When taken for long periods, HRT has been linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Because vaginal dryness is caused by decreased levels of estrogen in the body, any recovery program must focus on returning estrogen back to stable levels. A healthy diet and exercise regimen will facilitate greatly in this task. Indeed, the healthier the body, the healthier the hormone levels tend to be. On top of this, alternative medicines may prove effective in treating the symptoms of menopause. Some alternative remedies work by stimulating the body's own hormone production systems, thus eliminating the need for outside estrogen sources.
- Love, Susan, M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
- Mayo Clinic.(n.d)."Vaginal Dryness." Health Resource. 2007.
- The Changing Body: Menopause Handbook.(n.d) "Vulvovaginal Symptoms." Retrieved from www.menopause.org