For some, decreased vaginal moisture is not a huge deal. However, it can significantly affect a women’s sex life since it can cause feelings of discomfort and pain during sex.
Causes of Vaginal Dryness
Lowered estrogen levels are the usual cause of vaginal dryness. As women age and transition to menopause, their estrogen level decreases. The ovaries are responsible for the production of estrogen that facilitates the development of body characteristics in females, like body shape and breasts. Estrogen is also vital in pregnancy and menstrual cycle. Typically, estrogen maintains the tissue lining of the vagina moisturized, thick, and healthy. When levels lowered, the lining of the vagina might appear thinner, less elastic, drier, and light pink to blue colored. These specific changes are due to vaginal atrophy.
Other than menopause, here are different causes of why your estrogen levels decrease:
- treatments for cancer such as radiation and chemotherapy
- childbirth and breastfeeding
- certain autoimmune disorders
- anti-estrogen medications utilized for endometriosis or breast cancer, like Zoladex or Lupron
- surgical menopause where the ovaries are taken from the body for any reason via surgery
Other causes of why vaginal dryness occurs:
- Antihistamines – These are the drugs used to treat cold and allergy symptoms of allergy. They operate by drying up secretions. Examples of these meds include diphenhydramine, and the side effects can range from problems with urinating to vaginal dryness.
- Sjögren’s syndrome — This is a complicated autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the tear and salivary glands. Potentially, the tissue lining of the vagina can also be affected and become inflamed, resulting in vaginal dryness.
- Antidepressants – several antidepressants have sexual side effects, including the likes of lowered libido, vaginal dryness, and trouble having an orgasm.
- Douching and certain irritants – there are certain kinds of soaps, perfumes, lotions, and douches that can destroy the healthy balance of chemicals in the vagina, which can significantly result in vaginal dryness.
- Decreased libido – lowered libido or particular sexual issues might also lead to vaginal dryness, and usually, the dryness might also reduce sexual desire.
- Anxiety – Anxiety and stress might impact one’s sexual desire and can result in vaginal dryness.
Also, females who are smokers tend to reach the menopausal stage faster compared to those who don’t, which means vaginal dryness might also happen earlier among this group of women.
Diagnosis and Treatment
When you inspect any changes in your vaginal health, it is worth consulting with your doctor. These include any of the following indications:
- painful intercourse
The doctor will usually carry out a pelvic exam and review your medical history thoroughly to look for menstrual changes and vaginal symptoms. A pelvic examination will aid the doctor in determining any changes that take place in the vaginal walls and exclude other causes of problems, like an infection. The doctor might also take samples of vaginal discharge or cells to test if there is an underlying infection. There is no dedicated examination to diagnose vaginal dryness; that’s why doctors will usually utilize and analyze the symptoms and indications for diagnosing.
Though it might be uncomfortable and embarrassing to talk about this personal information, doctors are already used to deal with these kinds of conversations. Women need to ask for help, so their symptoms can be prevented or controlled earlier.
There are various kinds of treatment options for curing vaginal dryness. Your doctor or healthcare provider might recommend some prescription or over-the-counter treatment, as well as other forms of remedies. Here are some of the most common treatments for vaginal dryness.
- Topical estrogen cream – this is one of the most popular treatment options for vaginal dryness that’s caused by decreased estrogen levels. These are the kinds of medications that are applied straight to the vaginal areas to ease the symptoms. Compared to taking an estrogen pill, topical estrogen cream offers less estrogen absorption. Due to this, creams are low-risk.
- Vaginal ring/ Estring – it is a flexible ring inserted into the vagina and continuously secretes a minimum amount of estrogen to the tissues. For hygienic purposes, it is replaced after three weeks.
- Over the counter treatments – OTC treatments are also great options for relieving vaginal dryness. Lubricants are utilized during sexual intercourse to improve moisture levels and prevent painful sex. Water-based lubricants are highly-recommended compared to oil-based lubricants since the latter can result in condom breakage and irritation. Besides this, apply vaginal moisturizers daily or every few days to help stabilize the natural moisture level in the vagina.
- Regular sex – having regular sex can also help treat vaginal dryness, whether you are with a partner or alone. During arousal, the blood flow towards the vaginal tissues rises, which in return speeds up moisture production.
- Foods with phytoestrogens – phytoestrogens are substances that have the same function as estrogen to the body. Many plant-based foods, such as nuts, soy, tofu, and seeds, contain phytoestrogens. According to research, phytoestrogens improve vaginal dryness.
Since most products can easily irritate the delicate parts of the vaginal skin, it is crucial to ask for evaluation and treatment advice from your doctor or healthcare provider if the condition is continuous or gets worse.
What are the normal conditions?
Females who are sexually active experience fewer symptoms of vaginal dryness compared to those who don’t regularly have sex. As long as the levels of estrogen in the body are sufficient, sexual intercourse can offer benefits to both the flexibility and elasticity of the vagina.
Aside from using a vaginal moisturizer to keep your vagina well-moisturized, you should also refrain from using certain products or consume specific food and drinks because these can alter the natural balance of moisture in your vaginal area.
If you drink alcohol or caffeinated drinks all the time and don’t drink a sufficient amount of water daily, it could potentially impact your vaginal fluids, and the absence of healthy fats in your food can also be a significant factor. Make it a point to incorporate flaxseed, soy, and vitamin E in your diet. These will renew the estrogen levels in your system and improve your vaginal moisture.
Stop using irritating products like douches. Avoid using condoms that have nonoxynol-9 or N-9. This type of condom has a harmful chemical that can result in vaginal dryness. Take note that reproductive or age-related changes that occur to the vagina are inevitable.
Additionally, scented soaps and other hygiene products or extreme stress can also worsen the severity of vaginal dryness. Females who follow educated and healthy options during their menopause years will get the chance to enjoy and have the best time in this stage of their life.
Risk of having Vaginal Dryness
Vaginal dryness can expose you to bacterial infections or yeast infections of the vagina when left untreated. Seek immediate medical attention whenever you inspect symptoms of vaginal dryness since the doctor or healthcare professional will get a sample of your cells or vaginal discharge and test it for any signs of harmful bacteria or infection.
Vaginal dryness can also result in cracks and sores in the lining of the vagina. As estrogen levels drop and vaginal dryness takes its toll, the vaginal walls might have cracking or lesions, which lead to discomfort and painful sexual intercourse, which could affect your lifestyle.
Lastly, vaginal dryness can cause uncomfortable sex, which can affect your relationship with your spouse or partner. Make it a point to talk with your partner about your condition and how you’re going to get the medical help that you need. As early as possible, it is crucial that you consult your doctor about any pain or discomfort or thinning of your vaginal skin. He/she will diagnose your condition and offer effective treatment options and rule out any other causes, including bacterial infection.
When to seek medical attention
Vaginally dryness is usually due to lowered estrogen levels, and it rarely indicates severe health complications or disorder. However, look for medical help if the discomfort persists after several days or if sexual intercourse tends to be painful and uncomfortable. If vaginal dryness is left untreated for a long time, it could cause cracking and sores in the vaginal tissues.
If there is severe bleeding accompanying the vaginal dryness, look for emergency medical attention as soon as possible.
If necessary, the doctor will examine the vaginal lining for any sign of laceration or thinning of the skin. The doctor might also collect a sample of the vaginal discharge to test it for any signs of hazardous bacteria. Moreover, hormone tests will indicate whether you are menopause or perimenopause.
Table of Medications
- K-Y Jelly