Although vaginal dryness is a common menopause symptom, many women feel embarrassed or shy to ask medical professionals about this condition. It is important to know that vaginal dryness is a completely normal and often temporary condition. Understanding more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment options can help women manage this symptom. Continue reading to discover the answers to the most frequently asked questions about vaginal dryness during menopause.
Q: What Is Vaginal Dryness?
A: Vaginal dryness, known medically as "atrophic vaginitis," is defined as insufficient moisture of the vaginal walls and opening.
The body naturally produces a thin layer of moisture to lubricate the vagina. It does this by secreting a clear liquid from the cervix. When the body produces less lubrication, a woman may experience the unpleasant symptoms of vaginal dryness. Read on to learn more about these symptoms.
Q: What Are the Symptoms of Vaginal Dryness?
A: While each woman experiences the symptoms of vaginal dryness differently, the following are the most common:
- Discomfort when wearing pants
- Light bleeding during sex
- Painful intercourse
- General discomfort
- Frequent or urgent urination
When a woman experiences severe symptoms or her symptoms negatively impact her overall health, she should consult a trusted medical professional. Read on to learn about the possible causes of vaginal dryness.
Q: What Causes Vaginal Dryness during Menopause?
A: The number-one cause of vaginal dryness during menopause is decreased levels of estrogen in the body. As women approach menopause, the body begins to produce less and less estrogen.
As a result, the vaginal tissues become thinner and drier, losing their elasticity, a condition called atrophy. This can lead to vaginal dryness. Lowered estrogen levels also cause changes in pH levels from acidic to more alkaline, which can cause irritation and increase the risk of infection.
Keep reading to learn about other potential causes of vaginal dryness.
Q: What Else Can Cause Vaginal Dryness?
A: In addition to hormonal changes during menopause, other factors can cause or contribute to vaginal dryness. Some are also related to hormone changes, while others involve other physiological and environmental factors.
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Hormonal birth control
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Hormonal breast cancer treatment
- Medical and surgical menopause
- Allergic reaction
- Autoimmune diseases
- Certain medications
- Alcohol consumption
- Unresolved emotional issues
- Radiation and chemotherapy
Q: How Common Is Vaginal Dryness during Menopause?
A: Vaginal dryness is a very common symptom of menopause. While statistics vary slightly by source, most experts estimate that 40 - 60% of women will develop vaginal dryness at some point during the menopause transition.
Some women experience this symptom before the cessation of menstruation, while others will experience vaginal dryness in the years following menopause. The average age of menopause is approximately 51. Thus, the onset of vaginal dryness is typically ages 40 - 55.
As it is such a common symptom of menopause, women may be interested in learning how to manage this symptom. Keep reading to learn about simple measures that can be taken to alleviate the effects of vaginal dryness.
Q: What Self-care Measures Can Help with Vaginal Dryness?
A: Fortunately, self-care measures can drastically alleviate the symptoms of vaginal dryness. The following is a list of do's and don'ts in managing vaginal dryness.
- Drink more water
- Use a water-based lubricant
- Eat a balanced die
- tExercise more frequently
- Utilize stress reduction techniques
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine consumption
- Communicate with your partner
- Talk with your doctor
- Douche (vinegar, yogurt, or other preparations)
- Use harsh chemicals (e.g., soaps, bath products, detergents)
- Use unnecessary over-the-counter cold remedies
- Use oil-based lubricants or hand and body lotions
Q: When Should a Doctor Be Consulted about Vaginal Dryness?
A: It is a good idea to speak with a healthcare provider about any menopause symptoms, including vaginal dryness. Menopausal women who have questions or concerns about their symptoms, those for whom vaginal dryness is severe, persistent, or life-impeding, and those with other unexplained symptoms are urged to talk to a healthcare provider.
Q: Can Vaginal Dryness Be Treated?
Along with the self-care tips listed above, women have several options available for treating vaginal dryness. Lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in alleviating symptoms. However, they cannot treat underlying hormonal cause of vaginal dryness. Luckily, natural remedies can treat this principle cause safely and effectively.
Q: What Are the Best Ways to Cope with Vaginal Dryness?
Three approaches can be considered for treating vaginal dryness: (1) lifestyle changes, (2) alternative remedies, and (3) medications. Most experts recommend that women begin with the least aggressive approach and move to the next level of treatment only if symptoms persist. Click on treatments for vaginal dryness to find out more about these approaches.
- Love, S. (2003). Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press.
- National Institutes of Health. (2013). Vaginal dryness. Retrieved April 6, 2016, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000892.htm