The majority of a woman's estrogen is produced in the ovaries. Thus, when ovarian hormonal production ceases, estrogen levels decline, and symptoms ensue, including vaginal dryness.
Continue reading to learn more about the relationship between estrogen and vaginal dryness, the symptom's other causes, and what you can do to resolve it once and for all.
How Low Estrogen Causes Vaginal Dryness
The primary cause of vaginal dryness in menopausal women is low estrogen levels.
Because estrogen keeps vaginal walls moist and elastic, lower levels may lead to vaginal tissues that become thinner, less elastic, and more fragile. This is called vaginal atrophy and causes symptoms of dryness, burning, itching, discharge, and more.
Also, estrogen is responsible for the production of certain acids that maintain a healthy pH balance in the vagina. So, when there is a lack of estrogen, infections may become more common.
Likewise, decreased estrogen levels reduce the amount of natural lubrication the vagina produces during sex, which can make vaginal intercourse uncomfortable and painful.
What Else Can Cause Vaginal Dryness?
Significant reproductive life events, like childbirth and breastfeeding, can cause vaginal dryness since both can lead to lowered estrogen levels.
Moreover, antidepressants as well as some over-the-counter medicines, such as cold and allergy medications, can cause women to experience vaginal issues by drying out mucous membranes.
Furthermore, in the event that you are undergoing treatment for an ongoing health condition, such as breast cancer, you may be prescribed anti-estrogen medicine to suppress the growth of new breast tissue, further affecting vaginal tissues.
Lastly, lack of arousal can also cause vaginal dryness. Try to increase blood flow to the vagina, which thus stimulates the secretion of natural lubrication.
How Can I Manage Vaginal Dryness?
For starters, try applying a vaginal lubricant or a vaginal moisturizer. A vaginal lubricant is used before and during sex and is applied to the genitals in order to reduce friction during sex. A vaginal moisturizer is applied to the vagina on a regular basis and is absorbed into vaginal tissues to increase moisture over time.
Additional recommendations are not to use harsh washcloths or soaps that can dry out the skin. Also, stay away from douches because they can upset the pH balance of the vagina.
However, the best way to actually treat vaginal dryness is by resolving the underlying cause, hormonal imbalance. Vaginal dryness treatments focus on optimizing your diet with phytoestrogens, encouraging regular sexual stimulation, and implementing alternative medicines to ultimately balance hormones.
Vaginal dryness is a common menopause symptom predominantly caused by lowered estrogen levels. Although, it can be a symptom of further life events, medications, and treatments. Even though it can cause general discomfort, itching, and pain during sex, there are ways to effectively reduce the effects of vaginal dryness, including by using vaginal lubricants and moisturizers as well as by treating the root cause, hormonal imbalance. Rest assured that with proper action taken, you can return to a state of ideal vaginal health.
- Bachmann, G.A. & Nevadunsky, N.S. (2000). Diagnosis and Treatment of Atrophic Vaginitis. American Family Physician, 61, 3090-3096. Retrieved September 20, 2018, from http://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0515/p3090.html
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013). Vaginal Atrophy. Retrieved September 20, 2018, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vaginal-atrophy/basics/definition/con-20025768